the week in review

…tis the end of January 2022

Good morning everyone. I cannot believe that it is already the final few days of January. February is just around the corner. I have been awake for several hours now. Did some light reading than rose from bed to put a load of laundry into the washing machine. This has often been my typical routine of late as I try to figure out how to spend the day and the week.

Last week I found myself on travel. Work related, having to travel back east to Savannah River for a number of meetings. As with all travel that I have done of late, it completely disrupts my routine, resulting in the addition of unnecessary pounds for myself. Found full planes and no issues, delays, COVID or weather impacts. Masks required for planes, airports and some other locations. Largely not required for eating and drinking establishments in the state of South Carolina. Yes, the source of my extra pounds. Refreshing to see this, and old colleagues, and to think that we may be returning to normal.

Kids are back to school after their bout of COVID. Daughter resumed the daily care and feeding of the horses. I worry about son and how the past two years have taken much away from him. The whole on-line learning has not been good. How are we, as parents, to reduce his screen time from video games when school is now on-line? And it is not as if they are watching a video feed of the teacher in the classroom.

As for me, I remain lucky, knowing that it is just a matter of time before I too will become sick. We are told to follow the science but it has become more about politics and less about science. As with so many things about science in the mainstream anymore. Testing appears to be difficult to find. As a nation, I think we find ourselves weary of the pandemic. In talking with people, they are ready to return to a normal life.

I have to wonder how we can talk about normal in an environment where inflation is around and is impacting the cost of everything. People will want to travel but everything costs more, or is difficult to find, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. I know that I have cut back on my spending, trying to pay my bills, pay down debt, and save more. As I prepare for retirement, I watch the daily declines in the market. I see that my children’s college fund has also taken a hit. All of that makes me think that I need to work just a little longer.

But how much longer? This weekend I said bon voyage to a coworker and friend, who has left for a change of station. We had dinner and drinks Friday night and he dropped off a few things yesterday that he would have thrown out but didn’t want to waste. A couple of fishing rods, some laundry detergent, Kleenex, coffee, green chile vodka. His plans are to endure a year, maybe two in Washington and then to retire. As for me, its 31 years 1 month and 13 days. But who is keeping track? Sadly, I will miss our Sunday morning coffee cabals, or the occasional trips to the brew pub. They were great in that it got me out of the house, if only for a few hours.

Well it is a cold and cloudy 24 in Los Alamos as I write this. Jewel hasn’t had a walk in a week. While the kids did a great job of taking care of her with the feeding twice a day and letting her out for awhile, I am sure that she too could use a stretch of the legs. And so with that in mind, I will end this post and walk the dog. Until next time, stay safe, happy reading and be kind to everyone you meet. I have some Sunday reading to wrap up, some work related work to do and yes, begin that effort in which Americans refer to as tax time.


The Coriolis Effect

In yesterday’s post about politics, I showed a photo of a toilet flushing blue water. One could infer much symbolism in the photo if they chose to do so. The image is a prime example of the coriolis effect. It’s a term in physics (definition copied here from a Google search), whereby a mass moving in a rotating system experiences a force (the Coriolis force ) acting perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of rotation. On the earth, the effect tends to deflect moving objects to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern and is important in the formation of cyclonic weather systems.

The coriolis effect explains why a toilet flushes clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Actually this is not true. Go to

to get the real story.

But the image of a flushing toilet is so powerful in terms of describing a bad day, a bad period in your life, the world that we are leaving for our children. For my children. This subject often comes up in our morning coffee cabals.

Today was a bad day at work. We are trying to deliver on our annual production milestone and everything that was the basis of our planning and the schedule is being overtaken by events, causing less time for work to get completed, and at much higher cost. “It takes too long” is met with the refrain “well I’m sorry about that but it will take what it will take”. On top of that, critical infrastructure is breaking down, causing additional and unnecessary outages. As I sat in a two hour meeting trying to understand all of this, all I could hear were excuses, people pushing responsibility onto others, and the sound of a cash register. Why a cash register? Well there were about 100 managers at the 2 hour meeting. Nothing was resolved after listening to all of the hot air and the estimated $160,000 of money being wasted; a work-in-progress that has no procedure, as required. Just shows how broken and flying by the seat of the pants we have become. Cha-Ching goes the cash register.

Senior managers explaining how PhD’s were difficult and inferring that they were not contributing to the solution. Reminded me of a great refrain I heard from graduate school: “not all PhD’s are created equal” (I will save that for another day). Technical people being ridiculed by non-technical high school graduates for this and that. The drill is typical: create lists of action items and assign them to people who will return in a few days with very little resolved. It went on and on. I tuned out because this has been the paradigm for the past several weeks. Overworked people being verbally chastised for not doing something when they in fact did, but the tool was ineffective in capturing it. Nothing was accomplished. Aside from the money, I am sure that there was an increase in air temperature (hot air) and the carbon dioxide levels in the room probably added a tenth of a degree to global warming. We used to be better than this people. At one time we used technical reasoning to make decisions. Not any more.

And sadly, that is what I see across the technical landscape of where I work. I see that and wonder how the next generation of employees that we have just hired will be able to accomplish what the past group of workers were able to accomplish. Short answer is that they will not. It will take longer and cost more. Try to do work and someone will call out a process deviation in the work-free safety zone that our workplace has become. I try to care, but my PTSD after 28 years is so bad that it has become easier to stop caring, come in and do the job. No more, no less. “It takes as long as it takes”. Make no waves and collect the paycheck. At one time I often worked 50, 60, up to 80 hours a week because I felt deeply and had passion for the mission. That too is gone.

How does this translate to my children? I am saddened that their lives will not be as rich and as fulfilling as mine. Hard work and determination are now a lost cause in America anymore. Intelligence and reasoning has been replaced with guesswork, participation awards and games. Our word no longer means anything. We have evolved to a generation that wants everything handed to them. The middle class is gone. Setting goals and achieving them is an art no longer practiced. The wealthy in this country continue to take and never return. They make fancy promises of contributions to help certain causes. Those pronouncements sadly are nothing more than cheap promises that make them feel larger than the rest of us. Nothing ever enriches all, it enriches a few.

Our nation no longer makes things. We provide services. Some services pay well, many do not. More and more people are left on the sidelines, they lack the skills and abilities to move along with the nation. They lack the ability to compete for fewer and fewer jobs. We move what little things we make to cheaper places. In the end, ther will be nobody left in America to buy anything, or to use the services that remain. Peopl tune out, drop out and just meander through. Rugged individualism is a thing of the past. I am afraid that more of today’s children, my children, will be caught up in this quicksand and never move ahead. Sadly that is the image I see in the coriolis effect.