Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In search of relief

Monday's deadline on the patient floor renovation on WLH was marred by Jann bringing in a bunch of redlines on a progress set (coulda used those a day earlier) as well as her downloading some of the drawings and made some changes, but she did it in a different version of the software so it botched the drawing format. It was also botched by Wayne suddenly deciding to review some drawings and making comments, half of which I'd already thought of and picked up, oh, about 72 hours ago. We ended up getting the printer late in the afternoon and getting the drawings first thing this morning. Arnie and I put the drawings--around 30 rolls of heavy-ass drawings--in Wayne's SUV to be delivered to a pricing meeting, while he...I don't know. Fucked around somewhere in the building.

Look, I have no problem doing "lowly" tasks, but it rankles me when I do stuff like that for people that don't seem to be interested in doing the same for me. I resent it because I get the distinct impression from Wayne's behavior over the past few years that putting drawings in someone's car is beneath him. I hate to break it to him, but he's not. If you're unlicensed, as he is, there is no task too low for you. Them's the breaks, buster.

So, between Norman and Dame Judith, I worked out an email to Jann in which I invited her out to lunch so that I can share with her some ideas and observations on how to make the projects go even more smoothly. I thanked her for allowing me to join her on these projects and said I enjoyed working with her, and that I'd boserved some ways in which we can make things work better.

One of these, the Dame and I decided, was to be upfront but with a polite tone of voice, that Wayne's meetings aren't that helpful for me and were a major factor in me having to work over the weekend. I can offer suggestions on how to streamline all these "meetings", and I shall, and I may also follow Derek's tack that he took with CA on a recent project. After heading up the design team on the project that he's now doing CA on (that is, watching and helping it get built), he asked Jann not to put anyone else on the project with him. As Derek put it, "It's just easier for me to spend 50 hours a week doing it right the first time than 40-60 doing my work and fixing someone else's mistakes or having to re-answer questions because they were answered wrong the first time."

Amen, Derek.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wear and tear

I mentioned a while back that I went to do the warranty walk on Wheatlands, my biggest project to date, and longtime WAD reader Faded asked how it looked. The answer is, pretty damn good. We sat in a meeting with the CEO, who likes Design Associates and has worked with us on projects at other facilities, and the facilities manager, a good ol' boy from Wheatlands who was Pissed Off. Here's what I think happened, none of which is an indictment of GOB's character: GOB got left out of a lot of this facility's planning and design, or at least he feels that way. A different member of the administration was the head of the design/construction team at Wheatlands, and this fellow has now left Wheatlands Hospital for a job in Virginia, and I think GOB feels like he's stuck with a building that could have been designed better that he had no input on.

Now, input from a facilities manager on a new building is a double-edged sword. One the one hand, you need their input and experience to make a building easy to maintain and functional from the standpoint of HVAC, electrical work, and emergency operation (e.g., what happens if the power goes out? if there's a bomb or attack of some kind?). You need their input on maintenance, like "my head of housekeeping doesn't think it's clean unless it's shiny; can this flooring be polished or does it go without polish?" or even remarks like "accent walls mean I have one more kind of paint I have to keep in stock for touchups." The other edge of that sword is represented by that last comment about accent paints, which I've actually heard Squidwort at MHRC say. If I haven't mentioned it before, Squidwort is a facilities manager, which means for the past ten months, I've been taking aesthetic commentary from a man who wants everything painted off-white and wants all mechanical and electrical chases to be two feet deep. To hell with your pretty accent walls and decorative glass inserts in the reception counter! SO the other side of taking advice from facilities managers is that how something looks, or even how a department might best function can be thrown out the window because the guy with the pipe wrench thinks it's a waste of time/pain in the ass/etc.

Anyway, the other part of the problem with GOB is the problem with many facilities managers: they love to tinker. Tinkering is a habit with them. They get their training on old buildings with forty-year-old pipes and boilers and so on, and they become accustomed to jiggling handles and wrappnig things with tape and taking off covers and nudging and adjusting things. Not a problem until you get a brand new building. IN a new building, if you have a problem, Step 1 is call the contractor and report it, especially if it happens in the first year or within the time of the product's warranty. FOr example, if you've got a door closer that closes too fast, call the contractor and tell them. Either they will tell you how to adjust it, or they will come out and adjust the closer for you. DO NOT just take the cover off of the closer and start doodling around: you can mess it up worse and possibly void the warranty. And we saw some of that at Wheatlands: GOB had been doodling with boilers, inflow valves, door closers, computerized HVAC control systems, and so on.

So, we're in the meeting, and GOB starts rattling off his list with an edge of fury. A page or two later, he started calming down. After I recorded five full pages of notes, he was calm and looked like he felt better. We responded to his concerns with, well, concern, and we resolved to address each as best we could. We walked around the building for probably two hours, taking notes and pictures of issues. OVerall, the building was in great shape. There were only a couple of cracks in the drywall, half of which were around an expansion joint, which is kind of expected. There were some mechanical/plumbing issues, which happens a lot. I felt a little demoralized about my five pages of "this and that is wrong", but Howie and the contractor were almost delighted.

"Those are all things that can be fixed, things that are manageable," said Howie. "Big things are things like they can't keep huge areas of the building warm or cool, or mold is growing in an operating room. We have none of that."

So, it would appear (knocking on wood, fingers crossed) that my first full, real building that I did from beginning to end is a success.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You like me, you really like me!

The lovely and talented St. Blogwen over at Hiraeth and Hwyl has tapped a Shorty as having an excellent blog. Now, by accepting this Excellent Blog Award, I have to agree to award it to 10 more people whose blogs I find Excellent Award worthy. While I, and all of those I'm about to name below, can give it to as many people as they/I want, the minimum is ten. And it's all good to recognize blogs that have already received this award.

So, first has to be Educated and Poor, the tidy little Keebler Tree run by my sister Miss Kitty. Kitty illuminates the not-so-easy life of being a college professor, teaching mostly freshman English, aka 13th grade. The old saw is "those who can, do; those who can't, teach," but Kitty shoots holes in that theory like a Howitzer through tissue paper. It's not all butt-kicking and paper-grading, though; there's plenty to enjoy while watching her wrangle chickens and herd cats and grow flowers (alas, my impoverished container gardens here in Denver weep to grow so well). And it is always good to see what my sister is doing, 1500 miles away.

Next, I must tip my hat to another Ms. Kitty, or as I call her, Rev. Kit, and her ecumenics-made-interesting-and-clear-though-not-always-easy blog, Ms. Kitty's Saloon and Road Show. Kit does us all the favor of posting her sermons, which gives me a chance to read, think, reflect, and gain a little more understanding about God's love in its many facets. She also muses on culture and social issues--with all Kit's food for thought, I should weigh 300 pounds. Or at least my brain should.

Speaking of food for thought, I can always rely on Tom Harper over at Who Hijacked Our Country to give me my regular dose of political fury, or at least my weekly reason to get my liberal dander up. As a veteran of the Navy who served in Vietnam, I have a certain respect for his point of view. Though my dad was a lifelong Republican, I think he'd be at least somewhat impressed with Mr. Parker. (FWIW, all of Tom's fury made me think he was about half his real age until he revealed the Vietnam thing.)

At this point, I have to pause to holla at my fellow Georgia Tech grad, Baxtersmum at Suzi's Blahg. A ChemE (did I get that right?) who lived only a floor or two away from me in Hopkins Hall and graduated just rows away from me in the same ceremony in 1998, she enlightens her readers periodically with tales of working at the Pill Mill, a pharmaceutical factory. However, I can't wait to see her next move--she's heading to Las Vegas very soon for a new gig. While she was also interviewing for jobs out here in Denver (which she didn't take--POUT!!), she met me for dinner, only having ever spoken to me through blogs and the internet. Who says meeting peopole online is bad?

Also through Suzi, I met her fuzzy bebeh, Baxter, a 6-lb Yorkie-poo, over at Baxterwatch. Through Bax, we get a puppeh's eye view of how awful Mum's 15-lb cats are, how he looks so much better than his sister pup, and how to stop and snorgle the roses on vacation and even on normal daily outings.

Meawhile, I'm a longtime fan of Subservient No More and her recordings of upper-class crazy-rich-white-people goings-on in south Florida at Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds. Her latest (as of this post) post is about the misuse of the word "impact". I nearly spit Izze fruit soda on the monitor when I got to the last paragraph, I laughed so hard. While she started the blog as an office worker at a more-money-than-sense gated community in south Florida, she has since quit that job and found her own path in grad school and recounting the activities of her family, their pets, and the tacky people who hove into her view on a daily basis. Her blog is so good, I've gotten my sister-in-law STL Fan hooked on it.

SpookyRach at Skewed View had me hooked when first read a post of hers a couple of years ago about the new religion she was starting. It involved wearing capes and costumes and that there would no Wednesday night service because, and I'm paraphrasing, "If you need a booster shot of your religion midweek, you need more than religion." When her stories about life as a parole officer in a small town in Texas also make me spit various chilled beverages on my monitor, she makes me smile with tales of her semi-adopted daughter and her partner/husband Jackson, who evidently has a penchant for fishing at under 25 mph.

I cannot do this list without a shoutout to Joel over at Crummy Church Signs. The premise is simple: send him a poorly written or poorly thought-out church sign to him, and he'll make fun of it. He never meant for it to get so big, but it has, and I am indeed thankful. [bows head in snarkalicious prayer]

Surviving the Workday is entertaining and informative. Ms. Theologian and her staff of bright writers discuss a wide variety of workplace issues, like workers' rights, the place of spirituality in the workplace, HR matters, and philosophy and changes in the workplace. She makes me think about where I work as more than just a cheap Dilbert knockoff but more as a place for real observation of society as a microcosm. (Did that make any sense? Forgive me, I'm running out of steam, and I have to get up early tomorrow for yet another dumbass OAC meeting at MHRC.)

Finally, Go Fug Yourself is more nationally known than any of the other blogs on this list, but it's still beyond entertaining. What better way to analyze the role of celebrities in our culture that to mercilessly critique the ridiculous things they wear? It's not fashion, people, it's a train wreck, and GFY is there to call you on it. It's not that the Emperor has no clothes; it's that she's wearing something that looks like she was attacked by 1983 and a Hefty bag which was at the time trying to mate with a pelican.

Well, thanks for playing kids. i think I owe my readers a few updates on some lingering past issues from WAD. Word.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pixie's 2nd Letter to the WAD Fans in Corinth, as read at most weddings

It turned out to be a nice wedding, nice service with a funny, kinda-progressive Catholic priest (try to wrap your mind around that), nice reception, and nice next-day brunch. I got to meet a lot of Guy's dad's relatives, which was good indeed. Guy's dad is one of eleven, and only one is deceased, so there was a passel of peeps to meet this weekend. All good folks, all a good time.

Now, I mentioned that I hate weddings. I've only met/spent time with the bride in this wedding (Guy's cousin) about four times in seven and a half years, and I've never met the groom until this weekend, and I'd had a hard/icky week and just felt like staying home, but alas 'twas not to be. And frankly, it doesn't look good for me to stay home with no really good reason other than being obstinate. So, we got ready to get up at 6am, just like a weekday, on Saturday, and go get on a plane to do this nonsense. I barely drug out of bed, Guy's alarm didn't go off, and we made it out the door 15 minutes late. By the time we got to the airport, we realzed in order to make our plane, we would have to park in the $18-a-day parking deck. We ran in and got to United's check-in, and it was packed. They had half their gates closed. There was no way we were going to check in before 45 minutes before the flight to check our bags. I then noticed that we had a kinda-hard-sided hangup bag with wheels and a carryon with wheels; maybe we could just carry those on? The United agent at the end of the line said that the hang-up bag was too big. Guy asked me if they had lockers at the airport, and I responded with a really loud and way-unnecessarily mean "Excuse me?!" His thought, it turned out, was to buy a bag to put our hang-up clothes in from the airport luggage store (side note: highway robbery) and store our nice bag in a locker til we got back. No dice: lockers were removed from all airports after 9/11.

Guy makes the executive decision: we're checking in with carry-ons, and Pixie's heading for the gate while Guy Fixes This Situation. I ran to the security at A Concourse (the regular security was backed up from hell to breakfast) and made it through. By some miracle, I decided to pack my powdered makeup instead of my liquid tubes and bottles (thanks for giving me the powdered stuff, Kitty!) so everything I did have was under 3 ounces and fit in the quart bag they give you in line. I get to the gate, walk down the gangway, and this airline dude closes the door behind me. I then have to argue the door back open, because the door closes at ten minutes 'til the flight leaves and it was, indeed, twenty minutes before. The airline gal outside the gangway opened the door--I was right. I stood at the top of the gangway...and Guy coasts in two minutes before they close the door for good. We barely made it on the flight.

I was stressed and furious while all this is going on, livid that this is how I was spending my Saturday morning. It took a while on the plane to settle down and realize that we made it on the plane, and Guy managed to figure out some kind of solution, and here I was being a complete bitch. When we arrived, Guy told me that he had to run in, buy a non-structured garment bag, and throw our original bag away. That only pissed him off on principle--the bag broke the first time we used it a few months ago, and it was quite inexpensive to begin with. He managed to also get through Concourse A's security too. I threw my arms around him and kissed him. "Why do I keep doubting you?" I asked. Guy shrugged. "I dunno. I'm so cool!" he responded.

So cool indeed. Weddings are only nice when you get to the vows, and those vows are a good reminder for me. As 2 Corinthians says, Love is patient, Love is kind, Love is not boastful or seek it's own end, Love doesn't give you shit for underestimating the line at the airport or forgetting to get ground beef at the grocery store, Love doesn't start a screaming fit when you refuse to ask for directions because you totally know where you're going it's that damned Mapquest that's wrong, Love is forgiving when you snap at every little thing because a 56-hour week would do that to anyone. Love lip-syncs along when that "I'm Winning" song by Carlos Santana comes on, Love sneaks a digital camera into the new Steven Holl museum and takes photos of the unusual curtainwall glazing, Love goes up to a Baroque painting of Jesus on the cross with his arms up in a "Y" and holds up her arms like an "M" and he holds up his arms like a "C" and can't get Love's dad to understand why we want him to do an "A".

Love is patient, Love is kind. Love is my partner in crime and I will wipe applesauce off his chin when he's old and senile. But I'll also keep telling him he still owes me twenty bucks like four times a week. Love has a sick sense of humor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Busy day

We went out to Wheatlands today--Howie, the engineers, the contractors, and me--to walk through the facility for the 11-month walk. Most contractors provide a one year warranty on all their work at a building, and so they walk through the building with the owner and meet with them to see if anything is still not working and needs fixing a month before the warranty is over. That way, they can fix everything possible, the warranty expires, then everyone's (hopefully) happy. So we spent a while going through the list and walking through the building. Meanwhile, we've got to get up early tomorrow and fly to a wedding in Kansas City for a cousin of Guy's on Saturday evening, then fly back on Sunday. Feh. Remember, Guy and I hate weddings so much that we barely made our own. Regardless, we're packing our nice suits and a toothbrush and putting on our happy faces for the weekend.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wave your hands in the air and party nerdy like you juss' don't care

The dearth of posts on WAD this week had to do with two things: one, I was crazy busy helping another team with a deadline while doing a partial punch on MHRC; and two, Guy and I were getting ready for a party at our house, the Happy Kitten Highrise.

Here's the deal: about 18 or 20 months ago, Guy decided we should paint a couple of walls and cabinets in the house. I've mentioned this on and off, mostly in posts about the last phase of this renovation, known as Operation Clean This Place Up. Guy spent a fair amount of time in between projects, jobs, and injuries/illnesses to paint a few walls and strip and repaint cabinets in the hallway and bathroom. Photos of the HKH looking foxy-fine are forthcoming, mostly cuz I want to show off the incredible amount of work that we've done.

Architects fall into two camps when it comes to home improvement: those who live for repainting walls and installing bamboo flooring on every free weekend, and those who say, "Fuck painting." Guy and I fall into the second camp, for the most part. However, Guy got a wild hair after we finished passing the ARE back in late summer of 2005 and started this whole let's-paint-some-shit-around-here thing. At the end of 2007, I got a wild hair to get rid of clutter and instigated Operation CTPU, to which Guy readily agreed. But any of you out there who have done renovation projects know that in order to finish the job, you need a deadline. Hence, Guy and I picked March 17th for a deadline. We didn't quite make it, but by eventually settling on April 5th as our party date, it made us clean the house, get rid of clutter, and Get Things Done in general.

Doing the renovation proejct was all Guy's doing. I helped him pick colors and occasionally got him into DA's wood shop to work on cabinet doors, but that was the extent of my help. Hence, preparing for the party fell mostly to me. While Guy helped get rid of some detritus around the house (his primary task in Operation CTPU), i cleaned. And I mean cleaned. As in, spent a couple of hours on my hands and knees like Cinderella, scrubbing our tile bathroom floors with a bucket of warm water and some Oxyclean. Swiffing and sweeping the entire house twice in order to get rid of the ubiquitous Colorado dust and our ubiquitous cat hair. Wiping down counters and backsplashes, mopping the kitchen and some areas of the wood floors where cat barf or stray paint haunted us. Guy vacuumed our few but funky rugs and wiped glass tables, both tasks that I hate doing.

And I got and cooked food. Lawd, but did a Shorty get her grocery shop on. I made a trip to Sam's with my sister and two visits to the grocery store to pick up all my supplies--mini quiches, shrimp and cocktail sauce, mini crab cakes, chips, salsa, hummus, more chips, ingredients for spinach-artichoke dip (which did not get as eaten as I had hoped--I think I should've used my old recipe that uses sour cream and mayo instead of sour cream and cream cheese), ingredients for mini cheesecakes (which were hoovered up like mad, Shorty knows how to rock dessert), ingredients for chocolate fondue (which I didn't even get to break out, which means I'm gonna have to eat it here somehow), crudites, and sodas. Guy, mercifully, bought wine and beer, and he even made a sausage roll (STL Fan, if you're reading this, it's that sausage roll Guy's brother makes for Xmas Eve lunch at their dad's house each year, with the Ritz crackers, YUM!).

Overall, we had a great crowd, good food, excellent wine, and a great shindig overall. Folks were impressed with the job Guy had done, and they really enjoyed the view and the space we live in. It's been said that only architect like Modern architecture, and we had the room full of archinerds, knocking on concrete slabs and playing with artwork-hanging hardware, asking about paint and tile, and so on. You can dress us up, but you can't take us out. Unless it's to another architect's house--then it's okay.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why SpellCheck is not your best friend

In light of my sister's written faux pas today, I'd like to share one I heard about secondhand a couple of years ago:

My friend Moira was working on a large hotel/retail complex with a woman who was a licensed architect and the job captain. Moira said this woman was a terrible speller but a good architect nonetheless, and she was notorious for having really picky punchlists. A punchlist, you'll recall, is a list of items (split up by rooms) that need fixing before the owner moves in.

Well, this woman architect did a long, long punchlist on a couple of the hotel floors, and she noticed that throughout the areas she checked, many countertops and plumbing fixtures needed to have sealant applied around them. Except, unlike a proper architect, she didn't call it sealant. She called it "caulk", like she was a plumber.

And she's a bad speller.

So, the day after the punchlist, this architect lady sends out a long, Excel spreadsheet punchlist to the entire design team and construction team--Moira, her boss, the owner, the contractor, everyone--with line after line looking like this:

Toilet Room A355A: Needs more cock.
Housekeeping Room A356: Needs more cock at mop sink.
Guest Room A357: Needs more cock at wetbar countertop.

The contractor called Moira; was this, um, correct? Moira had to confirm, yes, the wetbar in A357 needs sealant applied to the backsplash, etc. etc. etc. For the rest of the project, the contractor would occasionally ask this woman, "Does it need more cock?" and she would reply obliviously, "No, it was installed correctly," or "Yeah, it does need more caulk around it."

Now, surely some of us, perhaps most of us, could use a little more, um, caulk in our lives. But is a punchlist the forum to air such needs?

And that, my people, is why you should never rely on SpellCheck. And always call it "sealant."