Frustration and a funk

FRUSTRATION – the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of the inability to change or achieve something.

FUNK – a state of depression. The dumps. The doldrums.

It has been about ten days since my last post to The McKeeSpot. Of late, I have found myself in a funk, frustrated with work, frustrated with myself and where I am in my life. Over the years I often find myself looking internally over time. It’s always good to evaluate life, identify opportunities to grow, to change. Decisions made, questioning and reflection.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/path-less-traveled_n_3732398

This frustration and funk has led to a haze where I think of a subject for the blog, start to jot down a few lines, but I simply could not complete the thought. It was not coherent, cohesive, or even interesting. This funk has lasted for awhile over the past few weeks, and to varying degrees. I still like my job, overall. Great people. Everyday is a new challenge. However of late, I find it more and more difficult to go to work everyday. Not great in starting my day as a cremudgeon. Overall my health is good, I am at good point in my life. Am I being accurate? Truthful?

It often overshadows my morning meetings and coffee cabel.

I see elements of this frustration and funk everyday at work. I am taking longer to complete work products, reviews, documents. Earlier this year I developed a presentation to introduce new and young staff on the project I manage. It was well received. However, putting that presentation into an article that can be published has advanced slowly over the past several months. Why is that? Too much work, too little time, too many demands on my time, striving for perfection, details that need to be reviewed, tested and implemented. I see lots of anger in the words that I have drafted for the paper. That anger is the closest that I have come to express my frustration with work.

These details exist across the program, across the multiple work products, across my coworkers. I sense that I am not alone in these issues at work. Management fails to see it, comment on it, assist in reducing it. There may be part of the problem.

Could it be that I have done a poor job evaluating my life, opportunities to grow, to change? Have I ignored the signs that could have led me in another direction? Is it that I never experienced a mid-life crisis? Are past decisions coming back to nag my subconscious? I am keeping it to myself, keeping it internalized isn’t a better situation.

Meetings

I have been lamenting of late to many about all of the meetings I have at work. Of late it has been nonstop, from 7 am to 4 pm. Meeting, meeting, meeting. It has been this way for weeks. Meetings do not make me feel that I have been successful, or have accomplished much. Review this document, discuss that topic in this meeting.

All of the meetings are largely associated with work process, work issues, or difficulties in getting things accomplished. First off was a two hour meeting to gather data and understand a process upset late last week. Such gathering of data can be a time consuming and lengthy process. That was followed by a one hour meeting explaining a timeline of the process upset and to speculate on what happened. This information was discussed in detail, or at least as much detail based on limited details, more conjecture, and then the development of a plan to get operations back up and running.

Then the next 6 hours ( 5 hours plus lunch) of today was working on work planning and schedule it of process details and cost and process efficiency over the next 5 to 7 years. I can plan my next day and have that schedule change, who thinks we can plan work details for the next year, let alone 5 to 7 years. Luckily, I have more of those meetings tomorrow.

This past Monday and Tuesday were just as bad. Monday typically starts of with a weekly update on a special project that we have been working. The special project is behind schedule, but also woefully underspent. The staff engineers, scientists and technicians have been bouncing back and forth between two to three distinct and separate projects. The root cause of the poor execution of the special project is poor planning, taking longer to get procedures and process equipment and operations in place.

The majority of the meetings on Monday and Tuesday focus on our main project, which is a $60 million dollar a year activity over the next decade or two. The big Tuesday meeting lays out the details of work processes for the next several weeks. This is used to make sure the necessary resources are available to meet the goals of the overall plans being executed. We are within weeks of meeting our 2019 production goals, which has to be met by the end of September. Our production has been moving very far very fast and we are well on our way towards meeting next year’s production goals. This is being accomplished with much change in the process. Investment in new equipment, which takes several years to accomplish, is progressing. Such investments will improve efficiency, reliability and maintain ability of equipment. Many areas to work on in supporting this effort, some travel, many reports and documents to produce. Charts and monthly, and biweekly reporting.

I need to spend future posts and discuss where I work and what I work on.

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

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/06/03/videos-synced-up-across-the-globe-prove-once-and-for-all-which-way-water-swirls/?utm_term=.09af76098326

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.

Tired

It’s about a quarter past nine as I sit and write this. Trying to write something every day. Kinda like Chemistry in graduate school. Equally important that I ran one experiment a day. Whether it was the necessary synthesis for starting materials, kinetics of chemical reactions, spectroscopic evaluations, or even modeling on the computer, I felt it necessary to do one reaction a day. So it is true with this new adventure. Just took son back to his mothers place; talked to daughter earlier as she is at Goose Downs working and riding in preparation for this weekends event.

I have been awake now for about 18 hours. A typical day. Never get much sleep on the weekdays. Three to five hours is the norm. Eight is sleeping in on the weekend. I usually start the day between 3 and 4 am. Hot tea or coffee, read, shower, take the dog for a walk. This morning we walked a little longer than normal and managed to come across 4 deer feeding in the yards around the place where we live. Got to work by 5:45 am. Usual day in terms of status and schedule meeting. Addressed questions about some equipment, worked with the quality assurance engineers on a new certificate of analysis for product specifications. Meeting on implementation of some new process monitoring to make us more efficient.

Left work after 4 pm to pick up son from summer camp. He didn’t want to go but I think he is actually have fun. It is tiring him out, a good thing. Cooked dinner, had to get dog food at the grocery store. Dropped him off at his mothers. Strangely, I too find myself very tired, having eye trouble. Looking at the dog who picks her head up from the sofa at the sound of the hospital lifeflight helicopter flying overhead.

That about does it it for me. It is hot this evening, not much of a breeze. Will make sleeping difficult. Until tomorrow.

My story, or is it?

As I think about subjects to write about, I have been thinking about a pathway to guide me through the summer months. I started this blog based on a conversation at work with a coworker, during one of our morning “coffee cabels”. They often deal with work issues, but this one morning, the discussion focused on retirement, what to do after retirement, whether to retire and return part time, or under contract to another company. The work stuff focuses on what is working, what is not working, our management, solving this or that technical problem. Sometimes the conversation triggers thoughts about almost anything. I try to make a mental note about those things; ideas for a future blog post.

The pathway was my thought about the fact that my topics ramble on in terms of subject. While some themes have emerged, I think it will take some time to improve my skills, improve my subjects, and how the fit together. As an example, lots of my posts speak about my kids. I love them, but I don’t think they read my blog. I’ll keep trying.

Now in my third week, I have been exposed to many fellow bloggers in the past few weeks. I find their stories and subjects equally interesting. Some deal with writing, animals, art, a variety of topics. Some readings that I have exposed myself to suggest writing about one or more of my hobbies. I have some future plans in this area and will lay those out over the next few months. I have lots of interests, but they all clearly are not hobbies. Book reviews, movie reviews are all fair game, but I fail to see how writing about those subjects will separate this blog from others. A book review about my reading might appear. I bet you all are interested in how far I have gotten in Atlas Shrugged (7 pages). Fishing, hunting, hiking and camping are also fair game. I won’t write about sports or skiing, although an occasional shout out to my teams is permitted. Similarly, food and alcohol are things that I enjoy, but I am neither a cook, critic or a connoisseur. Lots of blogs on history and politics but I don’t want to alienate half of the audience who would disagree with my political views. But then again, I would not be true to myself if I didn’t write about these things.

Some of these topics go to the heart of why I started this blog. It’s obvious that writing and communication are important in my job, with my friends and coworkers. It’s all around us. It’s also under assault (in my opinion). Just spend some time on Facebook. Read the comments to any article. Whether you agree or disagree, there is someone who has an opinion, or will tell you why your opinion is wrong, bad, stupid, or just embark on a characterization of you in detail in comparison to a part of the human anatomy. It doesn’t matter if your male or female. That is what is wrong with Facebook. But it gets worse as they try to have “community standards” that they impose. The imposition stifles free speech and communication of diverse subjects. We cannot have a debate, which is what is destroying our country, or democracy. That is a strength of social media, and for that Twitter might be better ( I am not on Twitter, but really, the limited character size constrains us). It is why we cannot compromise, we cannot move forward together. It’s sad that this has been the turn of our country since the 70’s by my recollections. But here we are. This blog isn’t going to fix those issues, but I will at least be able to express. Myself. And I hope that you will respond in kind and join me in these conversations. I’ll keep trying. I won’t be right all of the time, or most of the time, but I need to express myself.

What to write about today

Since I have started this journey a little over a week ago, when I sit down to write, I have typically had the entire piece written in my mind. Today I find myself in the opposite state of mind. Some subject ideas but nothing about the details of the piece. Not sure if it is because I haven’t thought enough about what specific subject to write about, or was it the frustrating day at work, or is it running for three days on seven hours of sleep, or the fact that there is to much going on.

As I said, I have many subjects to ponder. All of them will hopefully get put into words as we continue on this journey. All of them will provide you, the reader about what kind of person I am. Such topics include financial stuff. Lots of blogs about that. Some offer great advice and I have found the articles to be very helpful. I am not a financial expert so I will not write about that much. At least I can write at some point about my axioms for handling money. History and politics are two areas that I have interest in, but they can easily turn people off, especially when they don’t agree with your position on the issues that confront our nation. Suffice it to say, I characterize myself as being “so far to the right that I end up on the left”. Other topics can be hobbies, travel, people, book reviews. Many ideas of things to ponder and keep me occupied and hopefully, all of you as readers, coming back for more. Of course, there will be more offerings in the future about my kids and our pets. Cannot wait to tell you about the goldfish.

Work can be a dull subject. I have a PhD in Chemistry from a Big 10 school, but I really don’t do much chemistry anymore. Most of what I do is in the area of solving technical problems. These technical problems are often caused by others and thus it becomes my job to “make it work”. You do with what you have and don’t request the Lamborghini when a Ford works.

As for the sleep, that becomes an annual conversation in my medical checkup, along with weight, diet, and exercise. Ever since college some 40 years ago, I have been able to function on 2 to 4 hours of sleep every day. Yes it is odd that when I am on vacation, 8 to 10 hours is the norm. Charging the batteries I guess, but I’m thinking that weight, diet and exercise, would be better controlled if sleep was more normal than what I get at present.

And as always, there is lots going on. While I no longer work the 50 to 60 hour work weeks, there are the kids to consider, life and activities outside work, and the general realization that it’s time to do something different as I reach middle age. Yes I plan on living forever, so I better start working on weight, diet and exercise in order to even remotely live to 150.