Sunday, March 31, 2013


In early March we discovered one of our dogs had widespread cancer. The vet thinks it was hemangiosarcoma – a rapidly-growing cancer in her blood vessels that spread to her spleen, liver, a kidney, and a heart valve – but it was so far along there wasn't much point in testing it to confirm. We made her comfortable, including home saline injections and hand-feeding her as much pepperoni pizza as she would eat, but we had to put her down Friday night. It may have been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Obviously it's been difficult to watch an almost 13-year institution in our lives change so much so quickly, and now be gone.

Sorry to be a downer, it's just hard to coalesce interesting work stuff right now. To lighten the mood, here's a new urinal we probably won't be seeing in diplomatic facilities anytime soon. I think there's a joke about LEED in there somewhere but it's not coming to me.

(This post written while listening to one snoring dog.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013


The last couple of weeks have consisted primarily of the usual workload, with sprinklings of internal Post bidding.  On the work front, I was monitoring an email exchange about sending more guards to a project, and the site's security guy asked what the guards' assignments would be like. The DC security guy wrote, "They usually rotate every 12 months or whenever one of them gets malaria, whichever comes first." Outstanding!

On Post bidding, there isn't much to say at this point.  It's still in progress, not that I expect it to directly affect me. In different bidding news, I'm starting my first construction project bidding process for the government. It's interesting to compare my previous experience to the government's approach: it's all extremely similar and more formalized, as expected.

In this week's branch meeting, I suddenly heard a duck quacking. It was the ringtone for one of my coworkers - let's call him Fred - who said quickly, "Sorry I have to take this," and hurried out of the room. During the pause, another coworker checked his phone and said, "Looks like a new Pope was just elected." My supervisor gestured towards the door and said, "Well, looks like Fred just got The Call!" We laughed. Then we were reminded to not bring our phones into the meetings.

We're now in the thick of Employee Evaluation Report (EER) season.  Appraisals are difficult no matter where you are, and it's the same here. The EER process involves a pretty involved series of essays, starting with a work requirements statement, continuing with an evaluation of performance and accomplishments, evaluation of potential (which includes the dreaded Areas for Improvement), and review statement, all the while addressing the Core Precepts: leadership, managerial, interpersonal, communication, intellectual, and substantive knowledge. It's basically essay writing about your performance.

Probably the biggest variable is the conclusion: the DS-1829's Section VII is the employee statement area, which is lovingly referred to as The Suicide Box. It's an opportunity for employees to say what they want. You can describe your accomplishments, explain why your rater or reviewer gave you a bad review, or even celebrate the Airing of Grievances. Airing grievances is definitely and publicly not recommended, but that hasn't stopped some people.

There seem to be subtleties to how exactly to write each section, which is particularly challenging for us newcomers who've only heard examples of others' EER writings. It's not surprising that this goes into your permanent record, but it's still nerve-wracking to consider the implications if it doesn't go well. Of course I'll do the best I can, and if all else fails, I'll attach a note from my mother (assuming she gives me a good review).

(This post written while listening to B.B King Nobody Loves Me But My Mother)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

PAC to the rescue?

With the sequestration now official and a potential shutdown coming up, what will we do?  I propose hiring the Permanent Assurance Company to fix our budgeting issues.  (Just watched the Meaning of Life again this weekend for the first time in over 15 years...great movie on so many levels.)

We don't know what effect the sequestration will have on us yet; there appear to be too many variables to know.  In the meantime, the formal OBO Construction Management bid process seems to be over.  I imagine I'll be much more involved in next year's bidding process, but we'll see what happens.  There's definitely plenty of work to do in DC.

Other than that fascinating sidelines activity, I've mostly been supporting my project assignments - nothing too crazy over the last couple of weeks.  If you have 8 minutes to kill, this NPR piece talks about OBO’s efforts to balance building safety and beauty.  It doesn’t have any particularly fascinating reveals, but it does shed some insight into the issues our designers try to balance.

(This post written while listening to Avicii Levels)