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Schadenfreude is not befitting of you

Mar. 20th, 2007 | 09:24 pm
mood: predatorypredatory

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, I am still alive; just very busy. So, let's hit the highlights of past few months.

Chen and I have taken up fencing (just foil right now) and are having a blast. It is nice to get out on a regular basis, get some nice exercise and hone the skills that are associated with the sport (balance, timing, reading of your opponent among others). I am doing quite well and feel much more relaxed now that I have started this activity (especially since it is very difficult to get in a good, vigorous run at my current location during the winter months). I will post some photos of my more recent bouts soon.

Work is quite interesting right now--many things have occurred lately. I have been continuously assigned to more and more tasks (I am relatively confident now that they will soon discover that I am, indeed, a hack) requiring me to take on some serious responsibility. Actually, I am thoroughly enjoying it as it provides me the opportunity to demonstrate some more leadership rolls. That and I feel I have developed quite a rapport with many of the employees, enabling a good working relationship. The program managers are respecting me more and more every day (due to my ceaseless effort and occasionally having a good idea that doesn't cost several thousands of dollars or break something in the process). We recently underwent a reorganization (only six months in the making of that bad boy), and I was cross listed under about 4 different places -- I am lead of nuclear safety in the company, very high level in performance analysis (and I am lobbying to get an intern this summer) and I am also listed under Data Acquisition Systems engineering. The big change for me was that I have been assigned to the overall "Engineering" division (as opposed to a specific program) and that I now report directly to somebody who has taken a true interest in my well-being (both personal and professional) over the past two years. Very good changes for me there.

I took a few days off in January so Chen and I were able to take a long weekend in Chicago. That was actually a lot of fun--except for all the insane Saints fans that filled the hotel. I was pretty much ordered by several individuals (including the president of the company) to take some vacation time. Seeing how I had been working without time off for over 13 months, including a substantial amount of overtime in December and January, I felt it was a good time to take a few days for myself. We went to the Windy City and hit all our past favorite hot spots: Lao Sze Chuan restaurant in Chinatown, Teuscher chocolates on Michigan Ave, some shopping in the Water Tower as well as the biggies on Michigan Ave. All the goodies, very relaxing.

Work got interesting in February. Seeing the writing on the wall, I began looking for the management to show their hand--letting me see a round of layoffs. That was an interesting event. I had not been exposed to that before, nor was I expecting a few of the people who left. I was not concerned about my own job as I am the only person there who does 3 or 4 different things, but I couldn't help feeling the absolute depression on morale there. Luckily, the recent reorganization seems to have put a breath of fresh air into the employees, if only for the moment.

Chen and I have been looking for a house for the past few weeks. What a venture this is turning out to be. We have found several nice houses (near perfect), but she drags her feet just long enough that somebody else snags it first. But, I aim to please my wife, so we move on to the next group, hoping to find the one that she will deem perfect.

Now, looking to the upcoming events, I notice that we few from Marquette have a reunion coming up this summer. And as my luck would be, that is just the time that I have been assigned to a training team to head over to Idaho and get prepped on their equipment. Now, I have nothing against Idaho (yet), but if this place is run like the other labs I have visited, I am not hoping for much. So I must send my apologies to my previous classmates (y'all know who you are) that I will fail to be there. However, not to be denied some vacation time, Chen and I are planning a nice jaunt out to Phoenix this May to visit both my grandparents and her cousin (the same who's wedding we attended in Hawaii). That should be fun time, plus it gets us to another national park. Chen and I are trying to visit as many of the national parks as possible. Thus far we are up to about 6, but we have hopes of knocking out another 5 or so this year.

Fun and exciting time are afoot. Let's see how things pan out over the next few weeks.

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Oct. 13th, 2006 | 10:12 pm
mood: irritatedirritated

Things have not been going as well as I had hoped. I'm constantly exhausted after coming home from work and I have been getting more than my fair share of colds recently. But a whole host of events have transpired lately.

Chen and I are having a great time at our fencing class. She thinks it's a gas that she can stab me as hard as she wants. Retaliation--which I hadn't given much thought to--is pretty much meaningless as women are required to wear a chest protector. I feel quite comfortable adapting to the fencing mindset--perhaps it is the strategy and forethought that is required, but I find it thoroughly more enjoyable that just some simple mindless physical exertion. I will do my best to get photos of the activities.

Work took an interesting turn recently. As it sits, I have been getting trained for field service of our generators in addition to my current duties. This alone puts my workload over the top, seeing as how the V.P. and I are at odds over what my role should be. I was just biding my time until the final design reviews for the two major programs were complete before I butted heads with him again. However, today I find (in addition to more responsibilities of a program management view) that my coworker will be leaving in two weeks. This introduces two very important issues: 1) I will be taking over his primary duties, meaning that I will have even less time for those other damned projects for which VP apparently thinks that I am the only possible person to work. And 2) I will be the only nuclear safety analyst at the company, thus putting a substantial amount of power in my hands in regards to any negotiations with the VP.
Now, I'm not one to try to hamstring the company (I do feel a profound sense of loyalty to a number of the people there), but I also have absolutely no qualms about leaving in a heartbeat if I feel I am not getting the short end of the stick from the upper management. Of course, the VP keeps trying to play some management version of slight-of-hand by side stepping any of my points with "it's good to be wanted by different programs." Yes, it is good job security to have the skills in demand by all the programs, but it isn't good for morale or job satisfaction when working on some of those programs involve a few key individuals or that you have been working 10-12 hours per day every day for the past 7 months (in addition to working most weekends and every holiday I can remember). I think the last day off I had was in April.
Don't get me wrong here--there are a substantial amount of people there who do respect me and the work I do; and I appreciate that--even the guy who keeps trying to send me as a site representative to Idaho (apparently the U.P. and Idaho are equivalent environments). I have been busting my ass getting the work done because that is what I am paid to do--bucking for the promotion is secondary issue. But with my experience, connections with the DOE and a top secret clearance pretty much allows me to get another job quickly should I so desire.

Bah--I just like to rant occasionally.

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(no subject)

Oct. 5th, 2006 | 07:05 pm

Convienently ganked from a friend:

1. YOUR SPY NAME: (middle name and current street name)
John Hazy-Morn
Yeah, I think I would be killed quickly with that one.

2. YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME: (grandfather/grandmother on your dad's side, your favorite candy)
Emil KitKat
That's not gonna work.

3. YOUR RAP NAME (first initial of first name, first three or four letters of your last name)

4. YOUR GAMER TAG: (a favorite color, a favorite animal)
Blue Turtle

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born)
John Norway
I think that one might work.

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (first 3 letters of your last name, last 3 letters of mother's maiden name, first 3 letters of your pet's name)
Leaasi Ham
That's just plain disturbing.

7. JEDI NAME: (middle name spelled backwards, your mom's maiden name spelled backwards)
Nhoj Isamot
Wasn't that guy in episode 2?

8. PORN STAR NAME: (first pet's name, the street you grew up on)
Yorik Wright
Uh, no.

9. SUPERHERO NAME: ("The", your favorite color, the automobile your dad drives)
The Blue Ford.

10. YOUR ACTION HERO NAME: (first name of the main character in the last film you watched, last food you ate)
Jason Chop

11. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother & father's middle name )
John Marie
Yeah; they're gonna find me with that one.

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Sep. 17th, 2006 | 04:47 pm

I've been lurking about over the past couple weeks I have seen a few posts regarding families -- and focusing on the relationship with the parents. This feeds directly into my thoughts over the past few months regarding my father.

I've never known my father beyond what is written on my birth certificate; that is to say, I know his name. During my tumultuous years growing up in Michigan, I felt an obvious void where a father would be. My only brother left home when I was still rather young, and so I was left through my formative period without any male role model, as it were. I would see many of my friends and how they were able to interact with both parents. Truthfully, I would long for such interaction. Don't get me wrong here--my mother did her very best to ensure that I had a proper upbringing, and for that I am eternally grateful to her. But there are just some things for which a teen-aged boy needs a father.

In the past few years, I have made large strides to become what I'd like to think is an emotionally well-adjusted individual. And for years I was convinced that I was able to overcome any deficiencies that arose from the lack of a father, but was I just trying to rationalize taking the easy path? The past few months I have began thinking of looking up my father -- I mean, it isn't difficult to find people these days. I have been considering taking a few days in early December and trotting out to northern California to see my father. However--is the best course of action for me? Does simply knowing the man who happens to be my father suddenly make me a better person? Is there some connection which is mysteriously supposed to be established in this instance? I am at a loss to answer these, for I am coming from a reference frame where the knowledge, or even existence, of a father is immaterial and glaringly absent. Then again, is all this inner conflict just a mechanism to delay any action on my part? I am not sure what to expect, nor what I hope to accomplish, by meeting my father--except to be able to answer that nagging "what if" voice.

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Odds & Ends

Aug. 19th, 2006 | 09:21 pm
mood: energeticenergetic

We are under an insane amount of pressure at work right now. We have a Final Design Review for our newest space generator (the MMRTG) coming up in early October. Of course, this means that all reports should be submitted to our customer and the Department of Energy one month prior to FDR. My specific work involves Nuclear Safety, Gas Management and System Performance Analysis. The nuclear safety isn't a problem and I have already completed (sort of--I'll get to that shortly) the System Performance Analysis. However, the gas management requires substantial labwork still. When asked by my boss when I can get the report to our customer, I had to give him the truth. If I am not hit with any other projects (a HUGE if), if I can dedicate all my time to the experiments, if I can have complete control over at least one lab technician, if I am able to work no fewer than 16 hours per day and if I can get the majority of the report framed and written before the experiments are completed, then I can have the report ready for release to our customer on September 18th. Yeah, that's gonna happen.

I have been continuously sidetracked onto other projects by other programs, which makes it extremely difficult to get consistent work done. After having a bit of a fight with one program manager (I believe I scared the intern next to my desk when I was yelling things like "What bullshit is this you're trying to peddle?"), I got called in by the vice president to have a discussion about my time. Yeah, that makes sense--take an hour of time from the guy who is overworked and has insufficient time to complete his tasks. Apparently, after I pissed off the program manager, he went to the VP to bitch about my inability to work on his proposal. The VP decides issuing a edict to all program managers and project engineers instructing them, in no uncertain terms, to stay the hell away from me will solve this problem. This really does nothing to aid in the reduction of my workload, but the VP feels good about it, so that's something I guess.

Working on the gas management experiments, I have now developed a great distaste for the young techs working on the MMRTG program. You see (ha, I say you as though I have an actual audience), I have a apparatus set-up that uses a stainless steel plate that is bolted to my test fixture with stainless steel bolts. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but when you heat stainless steel, it likes to seize and bind to itself. This is well known in the industry, but apparently forgotten (or ignored) by people not listening to the experience available at my office! It was rather interesting trying to explain to my manager that I knew what I was doing when he saw me standing over my apparatus with a damned hack saw. Hey, I got the fixture removed and working again and I have replaced all the bolts with regular, non-special, steel bolts (not stainless).

And to cap off what was a fun week, I am sitting at my desk trying to complete an analysis so I can issue my recommendation to a different program manager regarding a course of action on one of our vendors who totally fucked up a job when my phone rings. "818" area code? Who do I know in "818" who is not on my phone's memory (that is, everybody at Pratt-Whitney Rocketdyne)? Ahhh, it was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory calling. Oh joy! I'd say "woe is me," but screw that. I get some researcher who is calling about one of my reports--written on June 2. 10 weeks and you finally decide to ask about it now? WTF? Not only that, but all his questions were explicitly answered in the first three pages of the report. I'd say that I need to take a vacation, but there is no way in hell that I am getting that approved until November (at which time the FDR for my other program will take place). (whimper). In other news at the job front, I am apparently being groomed for promotion to program management (which is quite high on the company totum). This would be interesting, to say the least.

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And the goat you road in on!

May. 31st, 2006 | 07:17 pm
mood: exhaustedexhausted

To all those out there: yes, I am still alive. I have just been terribly busy with both work, fighting some really irritating individuals at immigration and evading gators. Since it has been quite some time since I have last updated everybody to the wonderful doldrums that are the events of my life, I shall give some details here.

Apparently placing a request for new hires with extreme requirements on experience is not a good way to get replacements. For the past 5 months, I have been doing the job of 2 - 3 people; and it is starting to take a bit of a toll on me. At last count, I have no fewer than 8 primary functions at work, including, but not limited to, Nuclear Safety Analysis, Reliability Analysis and Thermoelectric Performance Analysis. This is tiring beyond reason. I don't mind working a bit more than is required, but putting in no fewer than 10 hours each day is getting ridiculous. Unfortunately, I don't foresee any near term relief. However, if all goes well in the next few months, I should be complete with the two final design reviews and the primary work on the new multi-watt program should be winding down to all a small break of a week or so. Unfortunately, my status precludes most foreign travel (I need to get briefed before I even go to Canada!). We both enjoy the national parks, so I am thinking either Smokey Mountains or Glacier National Park.

Though I cannot advocate any violence or malevolence against federal employees, I can't say that I would be aghast if something bothersome were to happen to those more irritating individuals. I applied, on behalf of my dear wife, for a greencard over two years ago. We had an interview for the greencard in August. When we haven't heard anything, we go downtown to have a little chat and determine the holdup. I'm thinking that they screwed up the paperwork and a delay exists, or perhaps they aren't satisfied with all the records we provided. No, no. They are still awaiting the results of a name verification. WTF? Name verification? I can get the FBI, DOE and OPM to do full and extensive background checks on me and all my known associates (Yes, they even got you!), but the INS takes 8 months to verify my wife's name? Government furnished birth records, passport and U.S. certified immigration papers are apparently insufficient. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. The biggest problem with this crap is that we can't move to a better place, or even (hope beyond hope) into a house until this is all resolved as (here is my favorite part) the post office will not forward immigration documents. That's right, a government agency will not forward legitimate government mail. Huh? Of course, all this delay means that we needed to submit another application for Chen's Employment Authorization Document for no less than $180 for a year. Just breaking that down seems a bit asinine: you pay the government $180 to get a card that allows you to work and pay taxes to further support that agency. Yay, where do I sign up?

Dodging Gators
In what world is it a good idea to build and maintain important facilities next to a gator pond? I spent last week in central Florida (both at Kennedy Space Center and Orland for training). Driving from the payload facility to the RTG facility, I was a bit surprised to see no fewer than three alligators basking on the banks. More surprising was the fact that there were several KSC personnel jogging next to the gators. I must comment on KSC security--it is pretty much non-existent. Yes, I had a special pass issued for me at the I.D. Office, but once I passed the main gate, I was able to go anywhere I wanted with pretty much no questions asked. I wanted to check out the new modules for the space station? Walk up them in the high-bay room. Want to see where the space shuttle is assembled, I walked up to, and in, the VAB with no problem (the shuttle was already on the launch pad for the 5 week check-out period).
I must also point out that Orlando in late May really does suck. Yes, I know, I am a bit more of a northern type guy who enjoys the cooler weather, but 98 and sticky is just bad no matter who you ask. I must also point out that no matter the architect, having a hotel room with the entire front wall made of glass is not smart. You see, single-pane glass is very good at transmitting sound, whereas a wall filled with oh, say insulation, is much better at staying quiet when you have Disney World hating teens wandering around at 1 am! Also, can anybody explain to me how providing an iron and ironing board can be considered part of a "resort fee"?

Yes, I know, I complain a bit too much. Bare it. I promise that my next adventure to the INS (I am thinking late June) will be well documented to all those who may be interested.

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Hiatus Interruptus

Mar. 6th, 2006 | 09:24 pm

I realize I haven't posted in about a month; and to the 2 or 3 semi-regular visitors, I do apologize. Apparently, my company is either trying to force me to quit or seeing if they can skirt a few labor issues by tripling my workload.

Actually, I have been working some serious overtime -- and I have to say 12 hour days do not, in any sense of the word, rock. Due to a few ill-timed resignations and retirements, I have taken on a substantial amount of additional work. My manager is a bit sympathetic to the situation; and we get along quite well -- he, too, went to Michigan Tech; woo, go Huskies! He also loves my attitude and alacrity (his words). Actually, I think he really enjoys my standard response to the workload: "it needs to get done, so I'll do it." The thing that confuses me is that although I have one official manager, I actually report to 4 different people depending on what project I am working. This alone is problematic, but now I have certain managers trying to slot my time to fit their projects.

Yay, though I walk through the valley of managers, I shall fear no supervision.

Actually, things are going pretty well for my work. I have just issued a major report, one more is about to be approved, and a third is in the works (I foresee 2 weeks work left on that bad boy). Once the Final Design Review comes up, I will be all prepared to dazzle the government boys with my r33+ skillz. And pending the completion of that beast, I will be pumped to relax for my other Final Design Review. Finish that and move onto a third project that will be entering the Preliminary Design Review stage and I will be able to take a break. Or I'll be a festering corpse in need of being scraped off the chair. I'm willing to start taking bets.

Now back to your regularly scheduled workaholic; I'm addicted to workahol.

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Best Buy's Bestest Buyers

Feb. 5th, 2006 | 09:09 pm

Chen wanted to hit Best Buy and one of its many splendid sales this morning. We go there only to find a rather long and fiercely slow line ready for us. We stand in line for a couple of minutes before the enormity of the situation finally dawns on me. In front of us is a woman who I can only assume regularly bathes in potpourri, and not in a good way. It was a rather pungent odor wafting back towards us. We tried to distance ourselves a little, but the rather unpleasant pickled cabbage dude behind us was none too appealing. This was the fun beginning of the day--of course, it got better, but nothing too riveting occurred.

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Go ahead, make my day.

Jan. 29th, 2006 | 07:49 pm
mood: aggravatedaggravated

I am having a very difficult time at work lately. The work itself is fine; in fact, it is rather mundane right now--and that is OK. I have exciting work I am doing as well as a bunch of menial, yet important, tasks I took over from the recent resignation of our performance analyst. So, the crux of this is that I am very busy taking all these tasks together. My manager would prefer that I not get overloaded, freak out and quit, hamstringing the company by removing the primary reliability, performance and nuclear safety knowledge in the company. I can appreciate his position in all this--but he was trying to have a lot of my new tasks getting picked up by a thermal analyst. That is fine normally, but this analyst is not allowed to see or do the large majority of my tasks for various reasons.

So, I am here with my tasks. I have outlined all of my work in the next two months, assigned it a priority level, sent it to the necessary program managers and told them all that I am currently either on schedule or ahead of it. This was by no means an invitation for more work (especially when I need to prepare a rather unsavory presentation for the DOE), but just a declaration that I am on top of everything and that I will not fall behind. Of course, this is right about the time that the shit hits the fan.

On Friday I learned that my company won a new contract. Not huge, but important. Of course, this means a new program manager--who apparently thinks that being named program manager bestows some magical priority need on his project, such that he can try to commandeer any and all personnel for his work. With only two people in the building who can do performance predictions (and one being far too busy to do his bidding), I have been trying to parry all this program manager's advances. More accurately, I am trying to get him to understand that although he is in charge of that program, he doesn't need everything right now, nor does he get priority on my time when work still remains on our primary projects. In fact, his newest kick is trying to get me to do some massive overtime--as in, ya really don't need to spend the weekend with your wife style overtime. I'm all about putting in more effort at the office when it will help the company meet all its goals and deadlines, but I am not about to sacrifice my entire family life for the company; especially when I don't foresee anybody getting hired and up to speed who can alleviate some of my overload for at least 6-9 months. Yeah, just that much fun.

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Random Musings

Jan. 21st, 2006 | 07:02 pm

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Mandlebrot!

  1. Only one child in twenty will be born on the day predicted by mandlebrot.
  2. The first mandlebrot was made in 1853, and had no pedals.
  3. A thimbleful of mandlebrot would weigh over 100 million tons!
  4. The eye of an ostrich is bigger than mandlebrot.
  5. Mandlebrot is actually a mammal, not a fish.
  6. A bride should wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and mandlebrot.
  7. All of the roles in Shakespeare's plays - including the female roles - were originally played by mandlebrot!
  8. Mandlebrot can fly at an average speed of fifteen kilometres an hour.
  9. Mandlebrot can sleep with one eye open.
  10. Mandlebrot will give a higher yield if milked when listening to music.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Come on, prove me wrong!

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