Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I can haz moar vacashun?

My Thanksgiving was great, and I hope yours was too. I didn’t check email—any of my accounts—for five whole days. I think my blood pressure actually kinda went down to a nice, normal number. However, I could have used a few more days of it, just doodling around and not drawing or fretting or tolerating nonsense. I got back to work Monday, and while the day itself wasn’t awful (most of my bosses are out of town on business for most of the week), I still found myself getting reflexively irate in the early evening when I realized I was out of enchilada sauce, and I found myself weeping at the nice sentiments on t-shirts and plaques in the Signals catalog. Results not typical for a Pixie.

However, I’m enjoying my fantastic new Zoya nail polish (including some matte colors!), and I woke up nicely to my lemon body scrub this morning, both early Christmas gifts from La Mama de Guy (thanks again, La Mama!). And it was nice to discover that I actually enjoyed working on some space plans today; it’s something that I’m really good at, and it’s rare that we architects get to do space planning to the extent that I’m doing it—about 40,000 sf worth, at least. I figure I need to start looking for some good moments to take some time off and get my mojo back, so maybe that’ll be my Christmas present to myself—guilt-free time off.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving...and not a moment too soon

This two-day workweek is right on time, my peeps. After coming down off of my deadline with Orville, I have found myself feeling full-fledged burnout again. I thought I had conquered this over the summer, but I evidently only tamped it down enough to keep working. I should have spent my half-day last week painting my nails and doing nothing, but I spent it cleaning which, while necessary, also just added to my exhaustion. I went back to work to face Howie, only to find that now Sven wants me to move upstairs to sit closer to the rest of the Gestalt team (whom I find to be decent human beings but half-ass architects, so I'd really rather not move). Plus, once I expressed anything even remotely resembling tiredness, Howie asked another architect in the office (non-healthcare) to help me with the SD layouts that I was supposed to be doing because, and I quote because I heard him over the wall on the phone with the architect, "She looks like she's kinda struggling."

Yes, Senor Fucktard, I am struggling, because as soon as I get done with one big-fast-monumental-do-more-than-you-were-originally-supposed-to-do-on-this-project deadline, there's another one right on its heels, and I have no time to rest or recover or anything. So I design an ambulatory surgical suite in 90 minutes or so, then I go in the bathroom and dry a few tears and pray for 5pm so I can just go home and not do anything and not serve anyone or have to humor anyone. It's been a long month and frankly a long year, and I can only describe the feeling as burnout. All I want to do is stare at the wall. I'm supposed to take all my vacation by the end of the year, but how am I supposed to do that when everything I have to do from here on out is one deadline after another and maybe you can take a few days right before Christmas but I really need to take the days now before I throw a grand mal hissy fit at work?

So, Thanksgiving has come at a good time. I'm actually looking forward to the drive to St. Louis. Being in a car with Guy for 12 hours is pretty good, really, as he and I generally have some great conversations and make each other laugh the whole way, and sometimes we're just quiet and Guy lets me be quiet and in my own little world for a bit. Indeed, I'm quite thankful for him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Prepare for decompression...

I wrapped up my deadline this morning with Orville and Intern Devon, and then I left the office by 10am. Having spent at least one day a weekend in the office for the past five weekends in a row, I'm kinda over it. Plus, if I have to start working on space planning a specialty clinic with Howie tomorrow, I need a break. I ended up getting some errands done around town as well as some cleaning done around the house. Now it's time to paint my nails and wait for Guy to get home and cook dinner. Tuna Helper for everyone!

In better news, we got an email today saying that the day after Thanksgiving would be a paid holiday this year (as opposed to being a furlough day like last year). That was welcome news indeed and makes the holidays look a little better this year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who watches the Watchmen? Part 2 of 2

It's been a while since I mentioned the MRI project with Will. Since Will is a partner, he usually isn't that involved in the day-to-day management of a project. Therefore, an associate is the next level down at my office (and at many firms across the country) who would actually manage a project. For the MRI project, Will assigned Orville as the managing associate, me as the architect, and Intern Devon as the intern/drawing-and-printing lackey. It's a small project, really--we're putting in an MRI into an existing space and renovating some nearby offices as well. What makes it tough is that the project has to be built on a really fast schedule so that research group that's going in halvsies with the research facility can move into the MRI suite in March and start doing their research. Like big research. Like they're-on-the-cusp-of-curing-three-major-diseases big. Oh, and did I mention that we haven't even finished the construction documents for the project, and they're picking the contractor in December? And they want all this done in less than three months (Jan-Mar)?

I'll wait a moment while all my architectural readers twitch and convulse regarding those last few sentences.

So, Will puts me on the project because I've done four MRIs in ten years, three of them in the last five years. Will brings on Orville presumably to run the project and because he has a lot of construction experience and has done two MRIs himself. However, in the past couple of months, I have found that I really like Orville as a person and loathe him as an architect. I'm having to get all the engineers in the room for coordination meetings and and run those coordination meetings as well as the meetings with the users and basically run this project. Orville has done the specs for the project (eventually), but hasn't really reviewed the drawings at any point that I can tell. He comes in at ten am and calls me eventually to ask "hey, did uh....did you see...........this...this email from So-and-So...?" And my response is almost always, "Yeah. Go up in your email about five or six exchanges to where So-and-So responded at 9:34 am and you'll see our solution to the problem." Dude wasn't even in on Friday, and these drawings are due this Monday. While Orville has had some interesting comments and suggestions on how to fix things, it's like his head isn't even in the project most of the time. Even riding in a car with him from the research facility back to our office is unsettling and time-wasting--there's a quick exit off the highway that takes you straight to our office, but he's wandering all over the back roads of Denver's industrial fringes and has-been neighborhoods.

This is my fear, as un-PC as it might be to say or write it: I think Orville is going senile.

He's 67, and several years ago he had some work done on his heart (stents or something), and according to my dear friend Vinnie the psychologist, having your heart worked on in such an invasive way can really slow you down both in terms of physical speed and mental processing capacity. And I fear that's what's happened to Orville. He is quite literally acting too slow to be on this project with Devon and me. So on a project in which I'm only supposed to work about 4-8 hours a week (which is what Will told Sven), I'm working more like 20 hours a week because it's the only way to make the project even stand a chance of being successful.

So here's my question, faithful readers: is it wrong of me to express this concern to Sven? I feel like I'm being ageist if I say something like "Orville is too slow to run this project", but I feel like I need to explain to Sven why I'm not able to fully keep on top of the four Gestalt projects I'm running for him and why I've had to work overtime for the past couple of weeks. Further, I'm hearing from other folks in the office that they've had similar experiences in working with Orville (e.g., the interior designer who had to suck it up and run the client meetings because they no longer had the patience for Orville's constant non sequiturs, jokes, and random stories of his childhood growing up in Leadville). At least people like him (which is more than Howie can say for himself at the moment), but working with him is frustrating and unproductive.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who watches the Watchmen? Part 1 of 2

Rumor has it that we're actually getting reviews this year, and there's a remote chance that we might get a wee li'l raise. We'll see on the latter, and I'm even a little wary of the former. What I'm mostly concerned about is how reviews are performed, as in, are they done across the board? Who reviews the higher-ups at Design Associates? It gives me pause for two big reasons: Howie and Orville.

Howie has always been intense and had really high and exacting standards. In general, this has been a really good thing. Those who work with Howie for at least 6 months tend to get really good at architecture, not just the actual architecture part but also the writing-good-emails and asking-sharp-questions and doing-good-research parts. You know, all the parts you can't really learn in school because you don't have a real project that's getting built. But the past two years appear to have taken their toll on Howie. His behavior and intensity are to a point that no one who works for him--and I mean no one--can tolerate him anymore. Ingrid is exhausted, Interns Kimmy and Tara are anxious-tired, and even a group of architects across the office who are working with him on a replacement hospital project are tired of and furious with him. He has gone from just insisting that people do their job with a high level of accountability, accuracy, and quality to treating architects like two-year interns and interns like children. No one takes it personally, per se: he treats everyone with the same level of grand mal douchebaggery. I've had him treat me like that last year while working on a project with Intern Timmy, and having him push and micromanage me the way he's been doing says two things about him:

One, he doesn't trust anyone to do a good job, even though architecture is all about trusting other people to do a good job. After all, if I've made it through five rounds of layoffs, I presume that I'm doing pretty well at DA. All of us who are still here after five rounds of layoffs ought to be pretty good at what we do. So what's with all the micromanaging? And if he finally buys into DA and becomes a partner, does he really think he's going to have the time to micromanage us the way he does now? The second thing this behavior says about him is that he clearly doesn't trust his own training of his staff. Many of us with whom he's worked closely over the past several months to years know how to do a good job, and we do it. I dare say that we present and recent-past members of Team Howie are the best architects and interns at DA because of his excellent training and mentorship. The fact that he's stepped up his micromanaging tells me that he doesn't trust us to do our jobs, the very jobs he trained us to do.

The reason this sucks is that it's making him impossible to work with. His coworkers and employees are exhausted, furious, anxious, and sometimes even to the point of tears after dealing with him. Sven told me recently that I would be working with Howie on a project, and I pulled Sven aside and explained that I'll be glad to work with Howie as long as Sven understands that I might have to have a li'l heart-to-heart with everybody's favorite Svengali-come-lately. I explained to a first-puzzled-then-surprised Sven about Howie's behavioral changes in the past two years. Sven (God and Renzo Piano love him) actually thanked me for letting him know about this and said that he might be able to help me smooth this out a little bit when Howie and I finally had to work together. We'll see how that plays out. But I am a little fearful that Howie's unbearable behavioral changes might get swept under the rug as profits start to expand in 2011 and as things get busier. Will anyone remember his douchery in even a month or so when we have reviews?

to be continued....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Iz birfday LOLZ!!!!

Today iz birfday of mai favorit sistur EVAR!!! Miss Kitty over at Educated & Poor is thirty-mnndghfs, so hop on over and wish her a happy birthday full of kittehs and doggehs and chikinz!!
funny pictures of cats with captions

Friday, November 5, 2010

What it's actually like to be an architect

I'm shamelessly stealing this from Lulu Brown over at her rather well-edited and decently-educational blog. I laughed my ass off at this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Random picture for your mid-week enjoyment

Take a break, find somewhere quiet to sit, and enjoy a rainy early-autumn evening in Knoxville, TN. This little park just off of Market Square in the old part of downtown takes the place of a demolished building. I have to give grand mal props to whatever person or entity elected to fill this space with space and not building. The little trees in this courtyard streeeeeetch up to find some sky between the narrow three- to four-story buildings on each side and provide some shade and respite to those wandering through to the alley and business beyond, or to the waitstaff taking a smoke break from the restaurant on the right (where the concrete ramp is).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs CO

Recovering from a month's worth of a cold and working overtime, I thought I should at least post a few nice pictures from a weekend getaway to which Guy whisked me a few months ago. We spent the weekend in Manitou Springs, a few miles west of Colorado Springs and nestled in the shadow of Pikes Peak. More info about Miramont Castle is here; otherwise, enjoy a few shots from the Personal Photographic Collection of Pixie and Guy.