Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crutchwatch '07: two steps forward and one step back (and a lesson on contractors)

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I generally don't feel like being on the computer when I get home after staring at one all day, and that feeling compounds when Guy is gone for part of the week and I'd rather hang out with him than do anything online. The feeling then multiplies when my ankle hurts like a sumbitch, which it started doing today. The outside, especially along that tendon/muscle that connect the outside anklebone to your calf, has been achy and easily agitated all day long, even in the Darth Vader Boot of Protection. Tonight's post is gonna be short so I can go play with the Vicodin.

When I say "contractor", I often use that term interchangeably. Sometimes it just means the company that's doing the construction. Other times I mean one particular representative from the GC, or general contractor. Construction companies employ several people to see a project through, and this process is most often seen in large projects like, say, building or renovating a hospital. Norton Construction, the contractor on MHRC, has a few folks behind the scenes, like a VP or manager in charge of certain types of construction, and this VP/manager is often an architect's first contact when a project starts. Norton also has a team of estimators, who take my drawings and get pricing for the various systems. They can also do ballpark estimates on prices, based on recent completed or bid projects.

But when the work really starts on a large project, the "contractor" comes down to three people: the project manager (PM), the superintendent (the super), and the field engineer or project engineer (proj-eng*). The PM is someone with a fair amount of experience in construction, and this person is in charge of balancing work with budget. This guy's equivalent in my office is Howie. The PM deals a lot with money and financial issues related to the project, which gives the super the room to just get it built. This is just as how Howie handles costs and fees on my behalf and argues with the owner and the contractor about who pays for what so that I can just get questions answered and help get the damn thing built. It's a handy good cop/bad cop division of labor that's also efficient.

My equivalent on the contractor's side is, for the most part, the super. Though really, my job is sorta split between the proj-eng and the super. The super makes sure everything's getting built according to the drawings and specs, and he's the contact point for all the subcontractors on the site. He (I'm not being sexist here--I've never seen or heard of a female super, though I'm sure it's not impossible to have one) answers questions, makes sure construction is on schedule, looks ahead for possible problems and checks with the architect to solve these ahead of time. This part of the work bleeds over into the proj-eng's job. He or she (more proj-engs I've worked with here lately have been shes than hes) handles a lot of paperwork. A lot. There's a lot in construction, for sure. She issues and keeps track of questions to the architect and engineers from the field, shop drawings and product info from subcontractors, and changes to the documents. She will also sometimes help the PM track down pricing and be a go-between for the architect and a subcontractor.

All of these people come to the OAC meeting each week (or however often it happens). The architect spends a great deal of time on the phone and in person with the super and the proj-eng and not as much with the PM. On MHRC procedure suite, Phil is the PM, Billy Ray (whom y'all have met) is the super, and Zahara is the proj-eng. Just wanted to introduce them, as I'm sure I'll be talking about them a lot for the next few months.

*Sometimes a project engineer will say their title is "PE," but that is a misleading term. When a mechanical or electrical engineer has passed their licensure exams, they are alowed to use "P.E." after their names, which means "professional engineer." While a project engineer does good, hard work, they are not engineers as I think of them. And though they are called engineers, none of the aforementioned people drive trains, nor do they wear striped bib overalls and red handkerchiefs around their necks.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Quasi Detail of the Week: Fun with Asbestos

Even though I got several phone calls today from my contractor, it was quiet overall, and I got a fair amount of drawing and RFI-answering done, all while propping my foot up on my desk. Every little bit of elevation helps, it seems. It was quiet because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my procedure suite project was shut down until Tuesday for asbestos abatement and removal.

Quick refresher for some: asbestos was long used as fireproofing on building elements (like beams and columns) as well as in finishes (like wall coverings, fabrics, and flooring products). Even in Roman times, asbestos was used in napkins because they could be burned clean (wish I could find the source on that). However, it was discovered in teh late-1970s/early-1980s that breathing asbestos fibers gave one a touch of the cancer, so asbestos had to be removed or at least sealed up wherever possible (a process called abatement). I recall doing a remodel job up in Fort Collins back when I started at Design Associates in 2000 in the art building at a small college. The project manager I was with wanted to look in the ceiling (we call that "popping a tile", as in popping a ceiling tile up out of its grid so as to have a look around), and the building manager nearly had a stroke. "If you pop a tile, I'll have to shut the building down--we have asbestos on our structure!" he gasped. Hence, until abatement occurred, no one could even do so much as replace a ceiling tile--just had to patch it up.

In the procedure suite at MHRC, the VCT (vinyl composition tile) was safe, but the adhesive used to attach the tile to the concrete slab has asbestos. We had originally planned to just cover the floor, tile, sealant and all, with the new flooring, but the slab was in such bad shape from demolition that we were going to have to bead-blast it (not sure what that entails), then pour a self-leveling topping over the slab, then lay our new flooring on that. The bead-blasting, which I imagine is a lot like sandblasting, would have made the asbestos fibers friable--that is, singular and crispy, able to be handled and breathed--so we had to shut the area down and have it abated.

Not all asbestos removal is this drastic. Sometimes, it's found in pipe insulation on old plumbing systems, and it can simply be removed while wearing some gloves, put in a bag, and picked up by the hazardous waste folks. That also happened on the demo of the procedure area, and it was handled nicely and quietly.

So, the abatement company, which charges handily for its services, will be working through the weekend (charging even more handily, I'm sure) to finish removal. Monday, the state health board comes in and looks everything over and approves it. After that, we can go back in and get going again. My contractor will then begin looking for ways to accelerate the construction schedule so that we can make up for lost time and finish when we said we'd finish.

More construction details later. Guy should be home from his business trip any moment now. I'll have my foot up, anxiously awaiting his arrival. Wonder if I should just go ahead and call Pizza Hut now?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

CrutchWatch '07: Hijinks With Howie

"Holy shit, what happened?!" Howie's eyes flew open when he saw me round the corner into the kitchen, crutchcrutchcrutching along with Ethel carrying my coffee/water mug. Howie, my prodigal boss for whom I've been unable to work for the past few months due to all my projects being on hold, had been out of the office for a few days and hadn't seen me in my new state of infirmity.

"Twisted my ankle jogging. Chipped the end off my fibula and got a bad sprain in my ankle." I balanced on my left leg while Ethel got me some water.

"Wow," replied Howie. "Can I see your crutches?"

"Sure," I said, and before I could utter another word, he'd flipped them upside-down, climbed up onto them with his feet on the handholds, and proceeded to stilt-walk around the kitchen on my crutches. Incredulous laughter bubbled up in the office as people began realizing what my straight-laced, perfectly-gelled-haired, tie-wearing boss was doing. Ethel couldn't contain her laughter, nor could I. She said, "Up until just now, he really intimidated me. I don't know if I can look at him the same way again!" I just shook my head. Howie's a straight-on guy, but sometimes, you just never know.

This afternoon, I saw the doc for a follow-up, which required an x-ray of my foot. We discovered a lot of bruising and swelling on my instep, leading the doc to believe that I might have had an actual foot break. (It also alternately fascinated me and grossed me out.) After an ungodly amount of waiting, it was revealed that it was just swelling, no breakage, and I would only be needing the "Darth Vader" walking cast, which velcros all around my foot and lower leg. I also have to come back in ten days for yet another follow-up to see how I'm progressing. I still can't really put any weight on it, so I still need the crutches, but I can better use it for balance now. On the upside, I got a prescription for Vicodin...finally. Now all I need is my copy of "Dark Side of the Moon" and my weekend will be complete.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Crutching with a vengeance

That was how Jacqueline described my quasi-perambulation around the office today. Evidently, I'm nearly as fast on crutches as I am on two feet. However, my armpits are so sore they feel like they should be blistered--the crutches say theyre' for folk 5'-2" to 5'-10", and I'm only 5'-0". So, ouch. At least the office is full of people who wanted to help me out today. Ethel followed me to the bathroom/kitchen twice today, and even Wanda carried some shop drawings up to the front desk for me. I hate having to get that kind of help all the time. It's really inefficient and annoying. Tomorrow I have to go walk around the procedure suite area with Billy Ray to figure our where to reroute a duct into the basement. yay. According to the flooring guy, the floor in there is the worst he's seen in ten years, and he needs to fill the pits and holes left in it (which remain from demoing the CMU walls and chunks of random slabs), but before he fills that in and then pours leveling compound on it, the abation experts have to come in and remove the old VCT tiles because the adhesive containes asbestos. We wanted to just pour the leveling compund over the old tiles, but in order to apply the compound, you have to bead-blast the slab, and in doing so it's gonna tear up the tiles and release the asbestos. Asbestos in the air, right next to the asthma clinic. And me trying to walk over this really uneven survace. Yippee-fuckin'-do.

Meanwhile, I'm convinced that we're saving entirely too many lives with smoke barrier walls. In a rated smoke barrier wall, you need a closer on every door. The closer is at the top of a door; it's a contraption that pulls the door shut once it's opened. My experience today has been that closers are set to shut waaaaaay too fast, usually they shut on me as I'm zipping through the door. Or, zipping as much as one can on crutches. We have an elevator in our building, but it's in a back hall, where we share it with the other half of our building (presently vacated). The elevator is in a rated enclosure, so I have to keep stumbling through doors with closers to get between floors. Hence, it's crutchcrutchcrutchcrutch to the other side of the office, fight the door open and get through, trundle upstairs or downstairs in the ancient elevator, then fight through the next door and crutchcrutchcrutchcrutch back across the office to go pee, check the large-format plotter, get anything done. Then repeat the laborious process back to my desk. I know that in a few months, I'll be back to normal, but fuck if I could handle this the rest of my days. The constant stumbling, leaning, taking forever to get anywhere or get anything done. If I could reach the bottle in the cabinet, I'd have a drink.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I suppose I could work at IHOP...

Things that I have discovered to be difficult on one foot/crutches/with a splint-cast:

  • Moving
  • Peeing
  • Getting through doors with closers on them
  • Carrying a bowl of cereal
  • Carrying anything
  • Answering a phone
  • Bathing
  • Working on the computer/blogging

Things that aren't that hard:

  • Not a whole hell of a lot

Getting around today--and there wasn't that much getting around in my house--has left me frustrated and with sore underarms from the crutches. It's every little thing, too. I want to lay down with my foot up and with ice on my ankle, but that requires getting magazines, pillows, ice in the pack, water, and phone all in one place. Then as I get almost settled, I have to pee. So it's back up and hophophopping to the can, frightening cats along the way. I'm just annoyed.

On the plus side, I have much to be thankful for. Ultimately, this handicap is temporary. Also, I'm glad I've taken as good care of my body as I have. Good upper body strength has made lifting myself off of surfaces--including out of the tub this morning--rather easy. My abs are in decent enough shape that I can move myself around, swinging my legs here and there, without too much trouble. Practice balancing in yoga has made balancing...well, not easy, per se, but easier than I imagine it would be. At the very least, I can still do activities with my upper body. But still. Argh.

Time for more Advil.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Snow and grits

Mile High Guy and I awoke this morning to see huge, fat snowflakes falling--nay, hurtling--from solid grey skies over Denver. It was 75 yesterday, FYI. Which is nice, because at least that means that the snow isn't sticking to roads and sidewalks. Cars drive by with a slushing sound instead of a muffled crunching sound, which is a relief to me today. I'm going over to Dame Judith's house today to help her out with a few things, then over to the eye doctor to get a checkup and another year's worth of contact lenses. And since my Southern ass shouldn't be driving in snow, it's nice to know that the roads are failry clear.

Upon seeing this weather, I arose and made coffee (Vanilla Hazelnut from Einstein's), looked into the freezer...and decided it was time. It was Time to Make Grits. My sister, Miss Kitty, gave me a cloth bag full of stone-ground grits--just plain ground-up corn--with directions how to cook 'em properly. As it was stated in My Cousin Vinny, no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits. And I'm no exception. I make my own buttermilk biscuits, my own whipped cream, and my own grits, dammit. So, I'm rinsing the grits, pouring up water, boiling them, simmering them, and then Guy the Unenlightened Native St. Louisian comes in and says, "What's that?"

"Them's grits," I replied as I cut up sausage from a roll.

Guy looked like a golden retriever doing calculus at the stove. "What's up with the grits?"

I responded with semi-mock surprise. "Whaddya mean, what's up with the grits? I'm fixing you a Southern breakfast! Eggs, sausage, and GRITS!" Guy rolled his eyes, sighed, and returned to the living room to read the Sunday Denver Post.

Oh, y'all. My grits simmered for half an hour, barely pop-bubbling by the end. They were thick, bloopy but not dribbly. I let out a Jerry Clower-esque yell. "Oh, honeh! I think these may be the Finest Grits in the World!!" I shouted to Guy.

Guy strolled into the kitchen. "As if I'd know a damn thing about grits," came his reply. I planted my hands on my hips. "Just yell like you're in heaven when you eat them," I retorted. "Anything less and you're sleeping on the sofa."

They were indeed the Finest Grits in the World. A little butter, salt, and pepper made them perfectly Pixielicious. Guy even made some noise like he enjoyed them. They were at least edible to him, as he polished his off without gagging. But oh, was a shorty in heaven with her proper grits. I might have the sunzabitches for dinner this week too, they were that good.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

These boots are not made for walking

I spent way more time at MHRC today than I'd planned to. When you go to the site, and especially when you go to a meeting at MHRC, you can't just do the meeting and leave. The first meeting was to coordinate all the trades in the ceiling, but they all wanted me to come out to the procedure suite afterwards and look around at the ceiling, then the framing guy had questions, then Billy Ray showed me an entire wall that the demo contractors said they didn't have to take down per the drawings (but why they didn't ask why they weren't taking it down is beyond me--it was the only wall left standing in the whole 6,000 sf area, duh), then...you get the drift.

I made it back to the office just in time to make the lunch presentation and was able to sit through most of it, but had to leave a little early (forgive me, Mikhail and Katya) so I could write a letter for Howie and then draw a detail of all the trades coming together in this one place in the ceiling, then rip back across town over to MHRC for another meeting about a clinic area they want to remodel. I had to walk and stand and walk and stand and answer questions about what are we doing in this room and the drawings say this but the narrative says that and that's not a built-in cabinet and what sink did we use in here. That walk was followed by a long meeting with Billy Ray, resolving the last of the issues I have to include in the PR I'm issuing tomorrow. I made it back to the office at 4:45, just in time to turn in my timesheet and meet my friend Vinnie for a drink.

I wore the cutest boots today, and for normal wear they're quite comfortable. But with all the walking and standing and tromping across rough concrete slabs, my feet freakin' hurt.

But I did look cute.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

News of late

My sister, Miss Kitty, came and went way too quickly--we had a total blast in our 3.5 days together, and we're already planning our next visit in the spring. Dare we ask for a week's time? Oh, I think we dare. As I've been backsliding on my posting lately, let's see if I can get the shortest version of the latest news:
  • I thought on Sunday when I went in to do casework shops that Thurston (an annoying Pomme de Terre staff member) had been fired or quit, but alas, he only moved desks. Damn. He's been a pain in the ass to two of my interns.
  • Demo is moving forward on the MHRC procedure suite. Once the demo crew is done there, they'll move up a few floors and across the campus to the present lab area where the new radiology suite is going to be and start demoing that area.
  • Casework shops suck. Seriously. I've spent the better part of 16 hours on them, and as soon as you solve one issue, there's another to solve. I looked at the casework shops for the original MHRC project we did a couple of years ago (which was completed in early spring this year), and I'm amazed they were able to build casework off these shops. There were no details on them, so I had to go to the building and walk around to see what the casework (countertops and cabinets, for the uninitiated) looked like, and I found yet again two different ways of doing them. And, I might add, neither of these ways looks like what we drew in our drawings. I swear to Phillip Johnson, I don't know how this building got built.
  • Upon arriving home late this evening, I saw in the elevator that our next door condo neighbor, who has had MS for 12 years, has finally been put into a nursing home/longterm care facility. Finally. This man has been in a wheelchair the entire 6 years we've lived here, and he's been in a motorized wheelchair or unable to leave his unit of his own volition for at least two or three years. I should also add that we live in an unsprinklered high-rise building. If there was a fire, this guy could only roll out onto his balcony and wait for the fire department to show up. For the past few years, he's needed round the clock live-in care, and one of his nurses last year ended up stealing some very valuable jewelry from him. People walked in and out of there like Grand Central Station, so none of us neighbors could say anything--we never knew who belonged there. Guy and I would often ask each other, "Can you really call what he's doing 'independent living,' for crying out loud?" perhaps now he can live in a safer place. The building manager provided an address so folks could visit him.

That's all for now. I'll post again when I have my wits about me.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Playing hooky with Kitty

The past two days have been a blast. After seven years of visiting me here, I've finally learned to schedule our activities for the afternoon of each day. While I'm one of the 5% of Americans who are morning people, Kitty, like most human beings, is not. I used to book our spa appointments at 10am, forcing me to hustle her out of bed and to the spa downtown, but alas, Shorty has learned her lesson. Thursday, our appointment was at 2:30pm, which gave us plenty of time to drink a pot of coffee, read the paper, and bug the crap out of Maddy and Hazel, who are not accustomed to such fierce snuggling as they receive at the hands of Aunt Kitty. While getting ready for a lazy brunch, Billy Ray called my cell phone, wanting to make sure that we were demoing the existing heating coils in the walls of the procedure suite. I sighed as I weighed the options and tried to expain infilling the panels with metal studs and drywall. "Everytime I solve a problem, it seems to cause another one, doesn't it?" I asked Billy Ray. He chuckled. "If this was easy, Pix, everyone would do it."

The sp was heavenly. Dinner afterwards was heavenly. Poor Guy came home to a condo full of cackling women with home-decorating magazines scattered around the dining room and his precious TV room, which is also our guest bedroom. He took it well. What a trooper.

Friday was spent at the new Sephora store in Boulder. All I can say is OMGWTFBBQSEPHORA. We spent probably at least 90 minutes in there, rubbing various potions on our hands, faces, and lips. I was heartbroken when I couldn't find the Bourjois Lip Stain pen I coveted so much (Kitty showed it to me), but I found some other makeup and skincare delights. Bwaahahaahaaaaa!! My cosmetic domination is at hand! My skin will be clear and my complexion dewy! My eyes will coordinate with my perfectly glossed lips! BWAAAAHHAHAAAAA!!!!

Um, sorry. Where was I?

Guy cooked us a marvelous casserole dinner after we returned from a walk around my lovely neighborhood, which is filled with delightful little houses. Delightful meaning ornate late 19th-century scrollwork and Victorian paint jobs and slate roofs and rambling gardens, and little meaning 5 bed/4 bath upwards of $600,000 each. But lovely nonetheless. After dinner, we watched the Rockies whoop up (again) on the D-backs and hit the sack. Today is more lounging around and then visiting my favorite no-kill cat shelter to pet kitties and clean boxes. Cuteness will abide.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Crossing the streams, part deux

So, most of the cleaning is done around the house is done. There's still some clutter here and there due to unfinished remodeling, but otherwise the house is presentable for my sister Miss Kitty's visit. She arrives Wednesday night and will hang out with me for four glorious days of shopping, spa-going, kitty-snuggling, and general tomfoolery. I'm taking Thursday and Friday off to enjoy her visit.

However, having a short week while the MHRC procedure suite demolition is in full swing and we're a week away from getting our building permit for MHRC radiology is going to be tough. The next couple of days might leak over into some after-5 nights, which will reek while I'm working but will be more than worth it when Kitty and I roll into the spa for our massages.

Friday, October 5, 2007

And a good day was had by all

If he were still alive, my father would be 61 today. I make it a point to have fun on his birthday, as I think he would also try to do something fun on his birthday too. This morning, Norman and Elliot and I met for breakfast at Snore, a little brunchy spot near our neighborhood, and then at lunch Norman and I joined a couple of the admin gals for some kick-ass barbecue. Finally this evening, Guy will be returning home from an overnight business trip, at which point we'll go to our favorite Mexican restaurant for happy-birthday margaritas and chile rellenos and quesadillas. Elsewhere, my sister Miss Kitty presented her paper at a conference to rave reviews, so it seems. (As if we thought it would turn out any other way!)

Tomorrow, things continue to go well. I'll have the day to play and hang out with Guy, but the late afternoon belongs to my shopping pal from work, Ethel, with whom I am going for a manicure and then to dinner and THEN (are you listening, SpookyRach?) to see Spamalot.

And Sunday? I think I'll be sleeping all this off. That or cleaning the house like a madwoman for when Miss Kitty comes to see me next week.