Wednesday, July 27, 2011

super flier

A long time ago, I did a series of posts on being a road warrior, starting with this discussion of receiving super-elite status with my favored hotel chain.

I fly relatively often - once or twice a month, on average. However, before I started working at this "temporary" gig, I hardly flew at all. And most of my flying is regional rather than cross-country, so I didn't exactly rack up the miles.

So it took me a long-ass time, but I am officially a frequent flyer, having reached the lowest level of elite status at the airline I use the most often. I must admit that the perks are nice...

1. Free checked bags (ok, not really a big deal when the checked bags would be paid by my employer)

2. Upgrades to 1st class

and most exciting...

3. You get to use the "priority" line and save a half hour of standing in line on a Monday morning!

I don't want to dilute my hotel points-based credit card by getting an airline card solely to get more miles, but when the flight crew is waving around all sorts of fancy deals for signing up for their credit card, it is tempting...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

never too old

Or too experienced to do something stupid.

Like, you're watching a drill rig do its thing and it's a beautiful day and you idly notice a little piece of something or other fall on the ground, so you mosey over. It's a strange piece of metal. You pick it up...

and get a high 2nd degree burn on your fingers because what you tried to grab was actually a tortured, red-hot chunk of the engine that had just been spat out of the exhaust.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

what I wore

In case you were wondering, I did have that big meeting that I talked about here. I tried on about five different outfits in the morning and ended up with a nice pair of dark blue jeans, a fancy button-down shirt, and my steel-toe boots.

As it turned out, none of the bigwigs at the meeting were terribly dressed up. I should have guessed that anybody in the environmental biz, in any technical capacity, would avoid wearing a suit. Or a tie. Or shiny shoes.

Also, I was the only person who wore steel-toe boots. We ended up doing more of a drive-by of the site and nobody got their shoes dirty.

I'm still figuring out this management stuff, I guess.

Monday, July 11, 2011

personal geography

It's funny that I ended up in the contaminated dirt business, because I grew up in the town next to (and downstream of - lucky us!) a massive, famous superfund site.

The center of town is a glacial u-shaped valley with a misfit stream running through, although you wouldn't know this by simply walking around - it just has a flattish lower part with a bunch of steep hills in the outskirts. The stream is called "the xxx river", but like a lot of features in this area, the name is hyperbolic. Where it's allowed to flow naturally, the xxx river is about a foot deep and 20 feet wide and pretty sluggish, although it's been dammed in a couple places and culverted in others.

I grew up in an era of burgeoning environmental consciousness, and knew about the superfund site for as long as I can remember, but nobody ever brought it up, and certainly not in school. I certainly didn't know about the extent of heavy industry in the 1800s and early 1900s, or that the flat areas in town were used for industrial disposal and then grassed over and turned into playing fields and parks (which they remain to this day) in the 1930s. I didn't know that the sediment in the lake on the far side of town (created by a dam installed under the WPA program) that I swam in was contaminated with eye-popping levels of heavy metals. I found all this out much later, when I picked up a fancy volume of the town's history and started filling in the blanks.

People still fish in the lake. The "beach", a couple of dump trucks of sand on the edge of the lake, is still as busy as ever in the summer. My connections tell me that the local paper (which still exists!) has yet to publish anything on environmental issues. The superfund site has been rendered uninteresting by time, although they still hold the required local meetings to update the populace on the ongoing cleanup efforts.

This is a wealthy, ridiculously educated town. I just looked up current demographics, and about 1/3 of the adult population has a graduate degree, and about 3/4 have at least a bachelor's degree. The number of scientists, lawyers, and professors is especially striking. It makes me wonder - how many other environmental messes are lurking elsewhere in places where nobody remembers or cares?