Thursday, May 31, 2012

truck? SUV? van?

Geologists and other field types are opinionated about their vehicles. Often if we're taking a bunch of stuff into the field, we need something with more storage space than my hatchback. So there are a few options.

If you need a huge amount of stuff (or just some extremely large stuff that you don't want to get wet), then you're stuck with a box truck. But most of the time with environmental investigations, it's a pickup truck or a SUV or a van.

I'm not a big fan of the pickup truck. If you are transporting a bunch of coolers or equipment, then you need to worry about keeping everything dry and make sure that nothing goes flying when you get above 30 mph. Also, unless you have 700 pounds of gear in the bed, the handling and traction are atrocious. Many of my male coworkers, however, had strange masculinity issues and were only comfortable with the largest, beefiest pickup trucks (and they had very specific ideas about Ford vs. Chevy... there are no other truck manufacturers).

If I can fit everything inside, my preference is an SUV - something with ground clearance, that's not too heavy or so big it won't fit down your average logging road. But if I'm carrying more than, say, 5 coolers or a few pieces of equipment that can only be loaded in such a way that they have the potential to fly through the back window, then an SUV won't work. Then I'll take a cargo van.

All the cargo vans I've driven have had anemic engines (as in, you can't even pass a loaded tractor trailer in the "truck passing" lanes on hilly back roads), no CD or MP3 player options, terrible sightlines, and terrifying handling. But they can hold practically as much as a box truck if you really jam stuff in, they have almost the same ground clearance as your average SUV or pickup truck, you can fit long, pointy things (like pry bars and hand augers) on the floor without fear of getting skewered in an accident, and you can get practically the entire field crew camped out in the back if the weather goes south. And cargo vans are surprisingly adept at off-roading - you can take them practically anywhere, and they're so light (if you dump out all your field gear), you can easily push them out of any trouble spot you got them into. And nobody really cares if you scratch a cargo van.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

not acclimated

We had a non-winter and a super mild spring - minimal rain, lovely temperatures. I was really not prepared for it to be over 90 degrees and humid today. It didn't help that I was lifting and moving around a bunch of heavy stuff that had been baking in the sun all morning.

So today was annoying and hot. Worse, I ended up with some lovely heat rash to plague me now that I'm inside and re-hydrated.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

new basement spider

A couple of months ago, I complained about basement spiders, which are black, spindly, and lurk in the corners where I need to stick my hands.

A few days after I wrote that post, I complained to a coworker about the basement spiders I'd encountered. He told me that that the last time he was in the house we regularly visit that is most infested by basement spiders, he'd come across a fist sized, fuzzy bastard that did not scuttle away when blown on/poked with a stick/otherwise encouraged to leave. He told it, "I won't bother you if you don't bother me," and continued his work with on wary eye on the spider.

I am not looking forward to my next rummage through that basement.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

life goes on

It's been about a year since my post about the death of my dad's best friend, GF. I adored GF ever since I was a toddler, and I was a wreck after his loss. But I was hardly the only person in GF's life.

So how is everyone doing?

GF's widow is still sorting through the ramifications of suddenly becoming an owner of a thriving company  - something that had always been GF's baby. GF's family and friend have rallied around her, and we get together whenever we can to hold epic crossword-solving marathons or play strategy games or argue about baseball. But it's hard. She jokes that she's become like Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone", juggling cardboard cutouts of movie stars and setting up different TVs to keep potential burglars away since she's alone in the house. And she still sleeps in the mattress/sickbed that they set up for GF downstairs.

At the same time, she's emerging from the identity she had for more than three decades as "GF's wife". She had always been a raucous, opinionated foil for GF; the person to prompt one of his epic stories and suggest new adventures just to see if he'd take the bait and try them. Now she's starting to go on her own adventures, like driving five hours to an opposing team's baseball game to heckle guys three times her size.

The others who were so close to GF - his kids, his brothers, my dad - they're all coming to term with his absence; honoring him their own way, whether that's excavating and passing around old photos of GF being ridiculous, dropping by the house to just hang out, or fundraising for cancer research. I help out where I can, but I also try to live my life like he did - to find joy and adventure wherever I go, and see the best in the people around me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

field oversight II

I wrote a post ages ago about some of the politics of doing field oversight on another environmental firm - how, even in a situation where your clients may be at odds, you generally work fine together.

Performing field oversight is generally a job left to lower-level field people. It's not terribly taxing, and the field representative who's doing the technical work generally knows what to do. In fact, it's often used as training.

After I wrote that post, I found myself in a new situation - I was the person to be overseen, and the person there to keep tabs on me had never seen this stuff before. I'm never one to let a teachable moment go, so I was happy to explain how everything worked, mechanically, and if there were any issues with the work (we were drilling, so...yes, there were issues), I pulled the person to the side to explain what had happened and suggest alternate methods the driller could use to avoid that problem. For example, why was it taking so gosh-darn long to drill this particular borehole? Well, probably the drill bit was worn out back when we were going through an especially nasty section earlier, but the driller wanted to fully use up the bit (and didn't want to yank up all the rods attached to said bit if he didn't have to).

It was a little strange to be training someone who was supposed to be keeping tabs on me. After all, this newbie could shut us down and kick me off the site if I wasn't fully cooperative. What helped was honesty. I told the oversight person, "Look, I'm not perfect. We are trying to do this job as safely and technically correct as possible, but if you see anything that you're not comfortable with, please let me know right away and we will address it, whether that means fixing something right now and continuing work, or calling our respective bosses to figure out a better way to do things."

Because the oversight person was comfortable coming to me with questions, I was able to explain stuff that was new/different to the newbie, we had an extra pair of eyes keeping an eye on stuff that may leak or break or get tripped over, and I didn't have high-level folks from the oversight contractor on my ass about every field decision.

Monday, May 14, 2012

follow up - part 1

I've had a hard couple of weeks and I fell off the blog-posting wagon. So I'm going to try another theme week as a prompt for new posts. This week's theme is "follow up". I've been posting for about 4 years now, so I figured it's time for some updates on old posts.

Today, I'm revisiting "filing follies," which I wrote early last year. I complained that my documents that needed filing sat in the admin person's internal mailbox for months on end.

It turned out that this woman, who's been with the organization for about a million years, does not use her mailbox. She didn't know where (what?) it was. Apparently those files were eventually rescued by someone else, who physically brought them to the admin's attention.

Here I was thinking that I was doing the admin person a favor by putting stuff in her mailbox with a sticky note on the cover to explain what I needed. To me, anything dropped off in an internal mailbox is FYI material - here's something you should have/may need to work on, but it's not a big hurry. If it needs babysitting or is especially complicated, I bring it to the person myself. But it gets annoying to be constantly interrupted by someone dropping off unimportant stuff (hello, employee newsletter!)

So now I drop everything off in person, making a big detour and interrupting the admin person (who generally has more important things to do, like getting reports out the door). Whatever works, I guess.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

traffic sensing?

After I raved about my GPS' traffic sensing here, I have to admit that I've had a serious problem recently - the traffic sensing on my GPS has been useless for most of the last month.

I've been driving in multiple regions and for extended periods, and have been unable to get any traffic signals, except for the odd time when there's no traffic on the road at all. Weekends, rush hour, off-peak, major metropolitan areas, rural areas, everywhere. What the hell use is traffic sensing only when there's no traffic?! And why am I paying $9 per month for a non-functional service?

I did a search for "GPS traffic sensing problems" and found that my GPS (TomTom) is actually one of the better options on the market. I guess I just need to be a little more patient.