Sunday, November 25, 2012

And then there were 6

One of our group of seven new construction engineers had been seriously considering leaving for quite a while, and two weeks ago he made the final decision to that it wasn't for him and left. His primary reason was because he found he didn't like working for a large bureaucracy, but I think the real reason was because there's no free coffee on our floor. We may never know for sure. (Just kidding - I know it's the coffee.) We talked a lot about it with him. He's going to have to repay a very substantial amount to the government, but it's probably better to make the decision sooner than later since he knew it wasn't a good fit. It's unusual for someone to leave so early so it raised many eyebrows, but the "No coffee? NO WORK!" protest just isn't going to work, grammatically or otherwise. He admitted it was an expensive way to make friends in far away places that he'll be able to visit. He used to refer to our group as The Magnificent Seven, and now we're just the So-So Six.  We certainly all wish him the best - he's a great guy with a bright future, and hopefully our paths will cross again.

I had my first project-related secret meeting recently, which was very interesting. We have a project in [redacted], and we're [redacted] granny smith [redacted] mango [redacted]. Then he said "Hurry up" so we left. We'll see how it works out.

Speaking of secret stuff, I need to tell you all about our super awesome shredder for secret stuff. It produces what I would almost call a paper mist, it's unreal - far different from the 70s shredders shown in Argo. The first thing I thought when I saw it was "They'll never get that out of the carpet." To ordinary mortals, this might not seem interesting. But to the particularly mischievous, that fine paper purée has some amazingly messy potential. In my first year I'm probably unlikely to take too many risks, but I definitely need to keep that product in mind. Maybe I could put presents I give in a box of it to "protect" the present? Something to keep in mind for this holiday season...

(This post written while listening to Bruce Springsteen Working On The Highway.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yvan Eht Nioj

Sandy turned out to be a non-issue for most of Northern Virginia, so we were fortunate. I'm still trying to use the rest of the water I'd hoarded in camping containers, but it's almost gone now.  I don't think I'd prepared adequately for losing power to the refrigerator, though - something to think about next time.

Work quickly returned to normal, and I'm continuing my transition from mostly training to mostly work. I did end up training for 3 days last week on Earned Value Management, which is similar in principle to what is already common in the construction industry.

I'm getting involved in projects at a variety of phases: design, pre-bidding, construction, warranty, and even post-warranty.  It's very helpful to see how they/we handle the different phases, particularly for observing issues that are coming up and how I might avoid them in the future.

I'm also slowly becoming more familiar with the issues surrounding construction in Africa, including contractor-subcontractor arrangements, security, and travel issues.  On travel, I'd never heard of Asky Airlines before, but our contractors fly them sometimes so I thought I'd look up a bit of info on them as a random air carrier example.  Asky apparently has 4-6 planes (depending on whose data you trust) and flies to many of the West and Central African locations where we have projects.  Africa is just such a different market to me that I'm not sure how it will differ exactly from US carriers, if much at all.  It sounds like I'll generally fly US carriers due to the Fly America Act, but I might fly others depending on route specifics.

After seeing Argo and its obvious Foreign Service recruitment message, I was pleased with the State Department's less in-your-face recruitment effort in Skyfall last night.  I believe the term is nanosubliminal.  Good stuff.

(This post written while listening to Adele Skyfall.)