Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wish in one hand...

I returned to work to find that the medical profession has lost its mind.  The master plan we're working on for a 14-story clinic building here in town entails that we talk to the users of each department before we redesign their departments.  At first, the folks in charge of design and construction didn't want us to talk with each department's staff, but recently they've relented.  So, while I was gone on Friday, Sven met with a few of the departments to discuss their wants and needs.

Overall, we got good comments out of them, and I was able to go over the notes and plan redlines with Sven on Tuesday and make the changes in the CAD plans.  As we were finishing up our debriefing, he handed me a thin stack of papers.  "These are wish lists from the users we met with Friday, and one of the eye doctors used some kind of SketchUp type software to show us what he wanted...which is odd because he put all the exam rooms on the exterior walls, and you really don't want daylight in eye exam rooms."

I looked at the drawings the fellow had made.  There was a plan and then a 3D image of the walls and doors he'd put in, plus a color legend to explain that red walls were exam rooms, blue walls were offices, and so on.  Like the Libra I am, I was of two minds about this.  On one hand, good on the guy for taking the initiative and for understanding 3D space enough to figure out what kind of layout he wanted for his department.  It's rare that we work with clients who can actually read plans and understand what it means to have an 8' x 8' room.  But oooooon the otherrrr haaaand (as Randy Travis would sing), gee, why did I go to school for 6 years and spend another 6 years getting licensed so that any schmuck with free software from the innernets can get their design on?  And here I was thinking I was so valuable as a healthcare architect.  I guess now I can diagnose astigmatism in my friends and neighbors?  Only if Google has some free software to help with that.

But I digress.  What really threw me was the "Wish Lists" that some of the departments put together.  They actually included the following:
  • Espresso machine (more than one department wanted one, actually.  Do they know that you have to be trained to make a decent latte?  That's how Starbucks does it, kids)
  • A Wii (is that how you're training to remove hemorrhoids these days?  I've seen Wii Fit and Wii Sport, but not Wii Laparoscopy or Wii Tracheoesophageal Scoping)
  • Sick room for employees (why? is removing stitches that nauseating?  then why are you a nurse/physician, pray tell?)
  • A plasma TV (if only the blood bank had asked for this, I'd understand.  Get it?  Blood bank, plasma?  See that pun I made?  I crack me up!)
  • Skylight (on the 10th floor of the 14-story building.  There's no punch line to that one--I'm looking at the document in another window right now)
  • Quiet room with masseuse and relaxing music on Bose system ( we have one at Design Associates too?)
Despite the fact that I just got back from Vegas, I am neither David Blaine nor David Copperfield.  I am an architect, not a magician.  If you are remodeling an existing space and you are not allowed to add on or take up space elsewhere in the building, and you want a sick room or a lounge or some other area that you don't presently have, you have to give up some space elsewhere to make it happen.  And when I say this, I'm not itrying to be cranky (I know, it's rare), just practical.  Do you really have enough advice nurse staff to fill that 10' x 16' room?  If not, we can take some space there and make you that quiet room you want/need.  But if you have four admin and advice staff in that room, and you're not giving up an exam or a storage room, then you get no lounge.  No, you can't give up your soiled utility room--the nurses need it, the AIA Guidelines require that you have one, and for crying out loud you deal with open wounds; you need somewhere to dispose of gooey bandages and basins of debrided wound residue.  I will do what I can to get you the spaces you need, but you have to be willing to meet me halfway, and you also have to trust me when I say that the ADA forbids you from having a toilet room that's 4' square.*

But a skylight on a lower floor of a tower?  Someone's been into the medical marijuana.

*In order to meet ADA and ANSI, a toilet room must be at least 7'-2" wide by 6'-8" long, if the door is on the wall opposite the toilet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back and truly well rested

And thankful to have had a wonderful weekend with a wonderful husband and a wonderful friend.  Friday, Guy and I got up at the crack of dawn to make our 7am flight to Las Vegas, but all was smooth from there.  Nice li'l rental car, productive outlet shopping trip, a visit to the Liberace Museum (oh, y'all, it was so right on), then off to dinner outside of town with Miz Scarlett, my innnernets friend who is now my IRL friend (we met through my sister's blog).  

The next day was rock climbing at the spa in the Venetian/Palazzo followed by lots of laying around in the new aquatherapy suite which was topped off with a restorative yoga class and a makeup lesson, where a lovely young woman who turned out to be ten years older than me did my makeup and showed me how to do it as well.  Then, Guy and I headed off to see Phantom of the Opera at our hotel/casino, and y'all!!  It was so good that I nearly started weeping during "Think of Me" and "All I Ask of You."  And I truly mean that literally.  I had to breathe deep and yawn and look up to stop the tears because a) I didn't have a napkin and b) my makeup looked so good but had I known that kohl on my eyes wouldn't have come off without a blowtorch I would have let loose.  Oh y'all, if you have a chance, See. Phantom. Srsly.  Even Guy really really liked it, and he's not a fan of musicals at all.  Then we had a nice dinner at Woo and gelato in the mall area.  

Sunday was a fitness assessment in which I found out I'm still doing quite well (21.1% body fat, spank you very much), and I can chest press 110 lbs and leg press 310 lbs.  (I weight 122, by comparison.)  Do not taunt Happy Fun Shorty.  Hang on, I have to flex for a second....okay, back.  Then I did some more languishing in the spa and got a massage.  Guy and I went to dinner and then to see Craig Ferguson at the MGM with Miz Scarlett (moar yayz!) but alas, we never met His Royal Baxterness.  I had a sad, but will have to rectify this situation by dragging Miss Kitty out to visit sometime fairly soon.

Monday, we got up and had breakfast and then spent some time doodling around Red Rock Canyon.  Very cool, and it was a good way to wind down from all the awesomeness we'd experienced in Vegas.  We got home in time for GUy to repack his carryon bag and head off to a project he's working on out on the East Coast.  He also has the digital camera, so I can't post pix til he gets back.  

But Y'ALL, we haz to go back to the spa.  I was so relaxed I took a nap.  Actually, I took three or four naps.  I never nap.  That's how relaxed I was.  That's it, we're all going.  Miss Kitty and Mom will fly in from Georgia, and then we'll all fly in from Denver, Rev Kit has to join us even if she has to take a ferry all the way from Whidbey Island, we're dragging Xtine and Charissa from way out yonder, and St. Blogwen needs to find someone to do her sermons for her while she goes out and raises some hell with us.  And to top it all off, Wide Lawns has to be there to make us all laugh at her tales of life in Florida and then make us all jealous at how well she writes.  Everyone, throw a change of undies in your purse, grab some mascara, and book your ticket--we're going.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What do you give for the fourth anniversary, poker chips?

We're off to Vegas early tomorrow morning for our fourth anniversary.  For those of you who are new to WAD, Guy and I eloped in Vegas on February 25, 2005, and our families and a few friends watched us get married before God and Elvis on the chapel webcam.  Last year, Guy was stricken with the flu during our third anniversary trip.  We're going to go visit a friend of mine the day we get there, and then it's nice dinners and spa trips and poker tournaments and Phantom of the Opera and gelato and people-watching and window shopping and partying like rock stars with the only man who can stand to be around me as much as Guy is.

See you on the other side of the weekend, my people!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CSI: Design Associates

Bosley, Howie, and I had a post-mortem on the interview for the cancer center near Wheatlands that we didn't get.  It appears that they were impressed by the amount of experience we had, and they thought our proposal was really good and clear.  They also could tell that we were really up on our technology, with regards to Revit.  However, our presentation during the interview was jumbled and hard to understand, and it seemed like they couldn't get a straight, easy-to-follow answer out of us on some of the questions.  We also didn't seem very interested in them, the guy said.  Which I thought was weird--why the hell would we come out there and do that presentation if we weren't interested in them?  I guess it was a matter of saying their name more or something.  I'm really at a loss on that one.

They also felt like we dropped the ball on interior design.  One of the clients asked our interior designer about research regarding cancer center design (using research on healthcare facilities to design your buildings is often called "evidence-based design"), and she started talking about how she loved all colors and would design them something warm and inviting.  It was a softball question, and she whiffed it.  Also, we never seemed to have a good answer for the question "what projects have you done together?"  Thing is, we have all done lots of healthcare projects, just not together.  The idea is that we're putting the best people for the project on it.  Actually, that's a really good answer, and when I offered it, Bosley liked it.

For me personally, Howie and Bosley suggested that I write my notes to be more like something I'd say, not something quite as "eloquent" as I did this time.  Which is a good point--I cribbed from my script from the last project interview, and it felt a little stilted.  Plus, I covered some parts of the presentation that I have never dealt with and don't have a lot of experience in dealing with, like working with budget and schedule.  I mean, I deal with it as a matter of getting my project done, but I'm never the keeper of the budget or schedule.  That's usually more of a contractor thing.  (That's not a good excuse, I know, but it's been my experience.)  So I was having to talk about things that I wasn't clear on and didn't really believe in.  Our interior designer also had her words almost literally written for her by Audrey, so she too was out of her element.  I also learned from Bosley that the guy who had an ax to grind with us "forgot" to send us notice about the presentation, so while everyone else had since January 5th, we only had a week to prepare for the presentation.

It's been said that we learn more from our failures than our successes.  I suppose that's true.  We have to figure out what to learn from this. Do we just knee-jerk react and do for the next presentation whatever this one was lacking, do we gently integrate some of the things from this presentation?  Whatever we learn, we need more than a freaking week to do it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Well, it was worth a shot

Bosley got the call today that we didn't get the cancer center project.  Out of the three firms that interviewed, we were third.  Ouch.  The facilities manager spent almost an hour on the phone explaining to Bosley what he thought our pros and cons were, and I emailed Bosley to see if he might share those with us.  After all, it's only my second interview ever, and I might as well learn something while I'm at it.  I'm sure I wasn't perfect--I have to wonder if my attempts at humanizing the team came across as too "cute" (a word I despise when referencing me in a professional setting, but it happens).  Maybe I'll catch him tomorrow or the next day.

Today, I'm at home.  While it worked out nicely that I could take today in order to balance out how far I went over 36 hours last week, it was even nicer that I could do so as I'm attempting to recover from this throat/sinus funktageousness.  I got a lot of writing done this morning as wellas six loads of laundry and then went for a little walk this afternoon on the way to the grocery store and ATM.  I had to get some more cold medicine, and the only kind to get is Sudafed, baby (or its generic version thereof).  And it annoys me that I have to take a little card to the pharmacy to buy it because its primary ingredient is pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (psuedoephedrine HCl), which is also used to make meth, and they can't have people coming in and buying 22 boxes of the stuff.  However, what really annoys me about this is that they can sell cough syrup over the counter but not badass Sudafed.  Dextromethorphan is the primary ingredient in many cough suppressants, and it actually  has psychoactive effects on people.  When I take it, I am insane.  And I don't mean I'm [singsong voice] "oooh, I'm sooo insaaane", I mean I'm "we the jury find the defendant...." kind of insane.  The last time I took dextromethorphan (which has the word "meth' in it, by the way), I flew into a silent seething rage when I saw Guy casually put a newspaper on the futon and it slid off.  I began plotting how I could suffocate him in his sleep.  Shouldn't be that hard, I posited to myself.  He snores like his dad, so I could say he has sleep apnea and just never woke up, but then how would I make sure he didn't have any fibers from the pillowcases in his mouth....

I wish I was kidding about this, or exaggerating.  I'm not.  Taking that stuff made me reflexively furious.  Vinnie's the one that put two and two together on it, and I now avoid it like "The Girls Next Door" on E!.  So, you can sell cough syrup--to kids, even--but you can't sell the awesomest decongestant ever?  And don't tell me just to get that Sudafed PE crap; that phenylephrine HCl doesn't do shit for my congestion.  My congestion laughs at phenylephrine HCl, gives it a wedgie, and takes its lunch money.  Call me when your decongestant takes the training wheels off.

But I'm catching up on my errands before we go to Vegas on Friday, and I'm enjoying some quiet time with the kittehs, both of whom are doing well.  The sheets are clean, the laundry is done, the floors are swiffed, the dishes are washed, the sun is out in Denver, and all is right with the world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Git ur kleen on

Thank the Lawd I was able to take half of Friday to just go home and lay down and rest.  My coldy-flu mild-sinusy-drippy-octopus-clinging-to-the-back-of-my-throat-super-tired-achy-back-muscles got worse and I spent all of Saturday laying around in my plaid fleece robe and Hello Kitty pajamas, changing only briefly to go turn in some library books that I couldn't renew and run by the vet to pick up some special cat food for Hazel.  Guy has the same funk I have, but he's had it for a few days before I came down with it.  Worse for him, he's had a crazy workweek and wasn't able to stay home, plus his pool team made the playoffs and he had to play Friday and Saturday, so he really didn't get to rest until Saturday evening.  We spent the evening sneezing, coughing, clearing our throats, rasping at each other, and laying around in fleece blankets.  Happy Valentine's Day to us.

This morning, we awoke to feel way better.  We still have the throat funk and are kinda tired, but we felt good enough to roll out of bed, put on underwear*, and walk to our favorite brunch spot.  Guy was going to go into work today, but right now he's asleep on the futon next to me.  I actually got the urge to clean something today.  I swiffed and swept the house, which made me feel better.  That might be all I do for now, as I can tell I still need to rest some more to fully get over this funk.  As I worked my way over the floors in my 1,250sf condo, I could tell my throat was a little dry and I almost felt short of breath.  Confession: when I came home sick Friday afternoon, I called my mom.  She told me what to drink and eat and told me that this was a cosmic sign that I need to slow down and get some rest.

I'm taking tomorrow off, so I can do some laundry and more tidying up and well as some writing.  But the cleaning thing, I'm actually kinda looking forward to.  Those who have known me for a long time would tell you that I've always been a clean freak.  My room was always pretty straightened up, though I always seemed to have a lot of stuff on my dresser.  But you could see the floor, and in the Goode household that meant clean.  I generally swiff the house once a week and wipe the kitchen counters as I work, not just when I'm done cooking.  Hell, when I go to my sister's house, I'm cleaning.  I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of cleaning and purging my possessions. I've even learned to enjoy laundry.  

What I've been putting off going through is my closet.  I really, really, really need to clean out my closet.  I know I've got clothes and shoes and scarfs in there I haven't worn in a while, and they need to go.  (Yes, Kitty, some of these will be slung your way--it may be that I'm waiting to do this cleaning until you get here on March 5th.)  More than the time that will be involved in doing so, I think the biggest reason I haven't cleaned yet is that I'll have to come face to face with clothing that have major emotional connections for me.  The "Erin Brockovich" top and skirt that I wore to woo Guy, and that looked so damn good on me.  The brown plaid flannel shirt Mom made me during college that I wore for four years straight and got two degrees in--the Zap-A-Gap stains and ripped seams where the hem caught on my desk in Professor Clark's studio.  The top and skirt I wore to elope in Vegas before God and Gold Lame Elvis (and the chapel webcam, which Kitty and Mom and several other relatives watched us on).

Which reminds me: next Wednesday is Guy's and my 4-year wedding anniversary.  We're heading back again to Vegasbaby this Friday through Monday, and we're hoping for a better trip than last year.  I told Guy that since we're sick now, maybe we won't be ill for our anniversary.  [grand sweeping arm gesture] Orange juice for all my troops!

*We also wore pants.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Back and home

We got back from our presentation/interview for the cancer center less than an hour ago, and I immediately went home. Not only am I way over my 36-hour weekly allotment, but I seem to have come down with some kind of creeping death throat funk over night. I was feeling a little run down last night and my throat was a little scratchy, but this morning it felt like I'd been sideswiped by a moving van and a small octopus was clamped on my tonsily area/throat. And my ears feel kinda tight. And I'm sore. Wah.

The presentation went okay. Not as good as the last one I did, but not bad. Howie had been out of town most of the week, so he hadn't had a chance to look at the slides about which he was to talk, but he still did okay. Bosley as usual was flawless. The interior designer we'd brought with us was a very experienced gal, but she was presenting a part of the spiel with which she was quite unfamiliar and sounded like she was reading a speech. (What is it with interior designers sounding like they're reading a speech in a presentation? Why are we not just letting them talk about the cool stuff they do and let them be natural? This happened on the last presentation too.) I did pretty well, I think, but my throat was getting really dry by the end, as it was already feeling compromised.

We had a stiffer room than last time. One guy in the room has a real ax to grind with Bosely on some work we did with his facility a few years ago, but another guy in the room has visited Wheatlands and evidently is impressed by it. We were only one of three firms to be considered for the job, so we'll see. Meanwhile, I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Architects are working...please stand by

Last week, Bosley and Howie dropped on me that they want me to be part of the proposal team for a cancer center project happening just this side of Wheatlands, just over the Colorado line into Kansas.  The presentation is this Friday morning, so we're having to work like crazy to get the presentation tight and clean and clear by Thursday morning so our poor, beleaguered graphics guru in marketing has time to make final changes.  Then, we have to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to drive out to this little town and present to them, and hopefullyhopefullyhopefully they'll pick us to do the design.  Unlike the last job we went after, this has a definite project and budget and timeline that has to be followed, so if they pick us, we have to get started pretty quickly.

Added to all of this is a sudden explosion of meetings and work for me to do this week.  So, I'm gonna be kinda busy for the next few days.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I adjusted my gross income and it's still gross

Guy and I are gathering up our records in one place to do our taxes again this year, and I finally took a good look at our W2s.  I'm usually hesitant to do this, though there's no reason in the world I should be.  Despite the fact that I'm sharing my life with this tall, furry Yeti who understands building codes and drives a motorcycle, I still feel, well, like his money is his business and mine is my business and ne'er the twain shall meet.  I also know that it's 2009 and we're both adults, and if I'm going to feed him applesauce in his wheelchair in forty years, we ought to know what our money is doing and how much we're making.

I think part of it is I also hate being smacked in the face with how much more he makes than me.  My 2008 W2 reveals that, including my li'l bonuses in a down year, I made a hair over $60,000 gross (I brought home way less than that due to taxes and medical contributions as well as putting 8% in my 401(k), bear in mind).  Guy, on the other hand, cleared a little more than $15,000 more than I did for his gross.  To his credit, he too brought home way less than that, due to taxes and maxing out his 401(k) contributions.  This would explain part of why we don't look like we make what we make--Guy makes bank, but his rapper name would be Sir Save-A-Lot.  And his hit single would be "Baby Got Cash."  "I like big funds and I cannot lie / You other brokers can't deny/ When a girl walks in with some itty-bitty debt / and an 800 FICO score / You get SPRUNG / Baby got it goin' on / She likes to buy low and sell high / Well short me short me / call the SEC and re-port me--"

But I digress.  Where was I? Oh, income disparity.

I may have mentioned this before, but the two best ways to get a decent increase in income as an architect is to a) get licensed and/or b) change firms.  Guy did both over the course of four months in 2006.  So, not accounting for being paid less due to my gender (which may have happened but I'm disqualifying that factor for right now because the thought of it makes me angry and the economy reeks so bad that I can only be so angry at one time), Guy got a 15%-20% raise to go to Acme Architects, and he's been paid well and rewarded even better for his performance.  And you don't have to be a financial planner or a math major to know that if you start out ahead, you'll likely end up ahead as time goes by and you get raises and whatnot.  So looking at Guy's W2 elicits a deep frustration in me, like I'm being cheated and being taken advantage of due to my loyalty to Design Associates.  

I realize, on the other hand, that in this craptacular economy, I have actually been rewarded by not being laid off.  Well, my loyalty plus my professional abilities have kept me employed, it seems.  DA has historically not laid people off, and I know it was bad when they laid off anyone, much less laid folks off in the numbers they did.  I also know that, as a healthcare architect with 8+ years of experience, I'm pretty hireable and employable as far as architects go.  Granted, there's not a whole lot out there right now, but if I were to be laid off, as soon as something came back, I'd be one of the best candidates.  Plus, I'm comfortable with writing, teaching, and public speaking, so I still have some universal job skills that don't limit me to just drawing hospitals all day.

But, as someone with a Master's dregree in Architecture and 8+ years of healthcare experience, I'm pretty underpaid.  Most architects are.  I suppose I'd rather be underpaid than overpaid, or there goes my job when the time for layoffs come.  

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quiz Time: How Much of a Tool Are You?

The following quiz was in the February 2009 issue of Money, in an article called "Fireproof Your Job."  It has "six smart, field-tested strategies" that "will help ensure you don't get burned by cutbacks at the office."  Mm-hmm.  The following quiz was originally titled "How Vulnerable Are You?", but I get a whiff of toolishness when I read it.  Here's the quiz: all answers were to be yes/no and are written here in bold, followed by my commentary (mostly relating to my own myopic workworld view).
  1. Do you work from home more than three days a month?  Why? Do you need a ride?  Look, me working from home doesn't make a damn bit of difference unless you're one of the people for whom it's all about "face time."  When I work from home, I turn "face time" into "productive time", which tends to make the company "money" and makes me "happy."  Next question.
  2. Has the number of meetings you are invited to dropped off noticeably from six months ago?  Yes, especially since I started mocking my coworkers for ending prepositional phrases with a preposition (duh, it's 'number of meetings to which you are invited').  Actually, yes, the number of meetings I've been invited to lately has dropped off because we have no work to meet about.  Next question, puh-leeze.
  3. Are you late for work more than once a week?  No, just on the days I have to hit the methadone clinic for a latte and a booster shot.  I seriously hate this question.  I roll into my office every day at 8:15 and I leave at 5.  Sometimes I work through a little lunch, sometimes not.  But you know what? In all my years at DA, no one has ever mentioned my technical-so-called-tardiness in a performance review because for the 7 hours and 45 minutes that I am there, I Get. Shit. Done.  Which reminds me...
  4. Has it been more than a year since your last performance review?  Depends on if you count the one I got in Swank last month (very extremely NSFW)--that review of my performance was that I was sure to go places in the industry with my supporting role in "Debbie Does Frank Gehry's Whole Office."  Can we move on, please?
  5. Has it been more than a month or two since your boss asked for your advice or opinion on pressing business?  Not at all!  Just last week he asked me what we should do about the lack of work in the office, and my helpful and professional advice was "get the effing banks to loan our clients some effing money and then get some effing work." Does anyone have a boss that asks you for advice or opinions on "pressing" matters?  "Which shoes would look better with this outfit, Pixie, these or these?"
  6. Do you earn more money that co-workers who have the same title or job responsibilities as you do?  Okay, finally there's one of these that almost doesn't annoy me.  But still, how many people actually know what their colleagues make?  Don't companies keep a super-tight lid on that sort of thing?  Though I guess you could get your colleagues roaring drunk and get them to fess up.  We do that at DA; it's called Tuesdays.
  7. Are you getting assigned fewer high-profile projects to work on lately?  *sigh* are we still on this topic?  Again, if there's NO WORK TO DO, are there gonna be a lot of high-profile assignments?  Oh no, Liz got asked to clean up the code book collection and I'm building medical equipment in Revit: I'm doomed!!
  8. Do you leave before your boss more than once a week?  Not really.  That bastard is in at 10 and out by 3 or 4 because THERE'S NOTHING TO DO.  And, I might also add, many of our bosses have laptops and can write proposals and do work at home, where we probably won't bother them and they can concentrate better (see question #1).  And furthermore, what's with this obsession with time?  I know that good work takes time to do, but if you can do a fantastic job in less than 8 hours, then why stick around and bother everyone (see question #3).
  9. Is your immediate supervisor the only person who can vouch for the quality of your work?  Yes, and now he works at Safeway spraying the produce with a garden hose because he made more than me and did the same job.  Actually, this one almost doesn't annoy me either.
Okay, let's check your score! If you said yes to:
  • Two or fewer questions: You are a belt sander.  You make a lot of noise, throw a lot of dust around, but when you're done, whatever you worked on doesn't actually look that different, just a little prettier.
  • Three to six questions: You are a circular saw.  You definitely make a difference in what you work on, but you're loud and dangerous.  At least one person who has worked with you has lost a finger due to something you've done.
  • Seven or more questions: You are a hammer. You're not a power tool, but you can only do one thing and you break more stuff than you actually fix.
(Thanks to Eric at S7g Architects for contributing to this post.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Things are tough all over

Fellow architect and job captain Liz and I commiserated in the ladies room yesterday about how unnerving the quiet is around the office. Not only are there fewer of us around, but there's not a whole lot of work to do. She and Jacqueline have a dark-humored competition on who can get the most billable hours in a week--usually that's only two or three hours, spent helping someone with specs or shop drawings or something. Guy heard through the grapevine recently (and from a pretty reliable source) that if Design Associates doesn't get some more work in the next couple of months, there will be more layoffs in the spring. Which leaves me wondering, who the hell will do the work? They've laid off probably half the interns and even some licensed folks. If they lay off the rest of us, who will do the drawings and meetings and shops as cheaply as we will?

I got a comment recently on this post about how the layoffs affect especially interns. The commenter, one of several named "Anonymous" on that particular post, summed it up with "Architects eats their young. There are a lot of great careers out there - this isn't one of them."

Hm. Well. I agree to a certain extent.

Having spent nearly nine years in this profession, only the last 2.5 as a licensed architect, I've had the opportunity to see both sides of the Licensing River as well as get a view from the upper rungs of the bottom of the ladder. What I learned is that architecture hazes its interns, its new people, the fresh thinkers and good new minds. Architecture pays interns crap and provides (by and large) few benefits real or imagined. Architecture works these interns extremely hard for a very long time (many interns' incomes are based on a 45-hour or 50-hour week) and sometimes won't even give them the experiences they need to succeed and to be good future architects--like actively engaging them in construction administration, involving them in contracts and bidding, and taking them on-site to see how what they draw really matters. Some firms are quick to dump employees, usually from the bottom. Guy mentioned a few firm names this evening here in Denver that dumped folks as early as 18 months ago and have a reputation for being layoff-happy. And the bosses of these firms are people who just want to draw beautiful buildings and know jack squat about payroll and marketing, and so their firms--their businesses--often flounder under their crappy management. And let's face it, architecture school does nothing to prepare its graduates to deal with basic business matters. And between the layoffs and the bad pay and the mistreatment and disrespect and bad management, we lose interns along the way, some of them really good. Some of them quit to go do related careers, like computer modeling or animating or even architectural photography. Some of them go off to start new, unrelated careers. And it's not cool.

Having said that, allow me to speak to all two interns that might read this digital tripe I call a blog: it gets better. Getting licensed allows even a moderately decent architectural professional to see a decent jump in pay, and getting licensed plus changing firms gets you more cash. The firm at which I work, Design Associates, slowly got rid of people last year and saved the two big layoffs for the fall, when everything really went to hell, and it wasn't until the last big round in November that they got rid of a substantial number of licensed folks. (I should mention here that DA has a reputation in da Mile High for being loathe to lay people off. We knew the economy was in the shitter when they laid off more than 4 people at once.) And sadly for interns, even really good ones, being licensed saves your job because a licensed job captain can draw in CAD and Revit like an intern, but he or she also has the experience to meet with clients, edit specs, and run projects like a project manager and do it all for a lot less than a project manager.

But hanging over all of these points is, frankly, the economy. Newcomers to WAD may not know that we hourly folks at DA have been asked to go to 36 hours a week. We've voluntarily taken a 10% pay cut to keep our jobs, and it turns out that even the higher-ups, the associates who are on salary, have taken 10% pay cuts as well. Consider the many new members of our white-collar workforce--all the lawyers and accountants and teachers and even software designers--who suddenly find themselves under-employed or unemployed. And working, alas, at Target.

Architecture as a profession is one of great risk and great rewards. It's like a growth stock: If you can stomach the risks, then you may indeed reap huge benefits. Or not. It's a profession that relies greatly on the economy, and right now, with banks not lending and bond issues not passing and the bond market being in the toilet and nothing going on, we have nothing to do and many firms have either laid off like crazy or are going under. Just like scads of restaurants and consulting firms and stores and all kinds of other businesses right now. So we're socking away some cash, crossing our fingers, and thankful we have what we have for now.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pillow talk is hell

[Scene: early Sunday morning at the Happy Kitten Highrise. Guy and Pixie are procrastinating getting out of bed. Maddy and Hazel yowl from the other room that it's time for treats.]

Pixie: So how's your new project team working out?
Guy: You know Mackenzie?
Pixie: Yeah, nice enough gal. What about her?
Guy: We went to lunch the other day, and she's Jewish, and her husband's...I dunno, some kind of Christian, and neither of them will back down, so they're gonna raise their kids as both and let them choose which they wanna be when they're eighteen.
Pixie: Hm. Uh-huh. So they're, uh...
Guy: Man, I knew religion wasn't for me when I was nine. Fuck waiting til I was eighteen.
Pixie: Indeed? How did you know when you were nine?
Guy: I asked my mom what was the deal with Catholicism. Did it all basically come down to faith? And she said yeah. And that's when I knew it wasn't for me, when the bottom line is, "Just trust me, just believe me, and go along with the rules we think are the best rules."
Pixie: [thoughful] Hm.
Guy: I mean, if that's all there is to it, then it's no better than Dungeons and Dragons.
Pixie: [sitting up off her pillow] What?! Baaahahahaa!!
Guy: Seriously. You get dressed up in special clothes to go to a ceratin place to behave under a very specific set of rules for an hour or so, but at least when you leave your buddy's basement after playing D&D, you know it's all a game and it's back to reality.
Pixie: [falling over onto Guy's chest] BAAAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!
Guy: What? Are you laughing at me or the analogy?
Pixie: I'm laughing at--so, instead of water in the baptismal font--
Guy: --there's a twenty-sided die. You roll it and it tells you what pew to sit in. Then you roll a six-sided die and multiply the number you get by five, and that's what you put in the collection plate.
Pixie: [still laughing] I love the notion of walking into church with a two-handed dwarven axe--
Guy: If you walk into early service with a two-handed dwarven axe, you get plus-five Jesus points.
Pixie: BAAHAHAAA!! So I guess the priest has to have plus-ten mage points or he can't run the service that day?
Guy: Right.
Pixie: [wheezing with laughter] ...and your penance at confession is to do the Dragon Canyon run without magic armor and an orc-detecting blade... [still laughing] ...two-handed dwarven axe...
Guy: [shrugging and absent-mindedly playing with Pixie's hair] It's not any weirder than a virgin birth and the resurrection.