Jul 12, 2007

Fluff Piece


This article has LANL PA written all over it.

--Gussie

Excerpt:

For many, the joy of working on applied research within such a big intellectual enclave is greater than the frustrations of living through a period of administrative change at the lab. "There's a joke that the postdocs are the only ones who can actually do anything, because the rest of us are filling out forms," says staff member Michelle Espy, who has worked at LANL off and on since starting graduate school. "But I remain optimistic. The lab is going to remain a world-class place to work. I just bought a new house — I'm planning to stay."

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bletch.

It sounds like LANS is winning the PR battle. "Everything is wonderful here at LANL! Come work with us. You too can do World Class science!"

Turns my stomach to read blatant PR crap like that Nature 'Special Report'. Where have all the real reporters gone?

Anonymous said...

"Taking complicated data sets and turning them into useful information is crucial for almost every aspect of LANL's work. Indeed, it faces stiff recruiting competition from companies, such as Google, that pay more. But LANL, says Wallace, offers an environment where communal teams of scientists solve problems that change society."

I would argue that Google's IT endeavors have done far more to improve and change the world than LANL will ever accomplish. Just what the hell is Terry talking about? This is a rather ridiculous statement to make on his part.

Anonymous said...

You can buy Michelle's house in a year. 50% off.

Anonymous said...

Oops! They forgot to mention the totally dysfunctional management, growing job insecurity, reductions in benefits, and securing TSM funding when you cost an astronomical $450K per year. And don't forget about our Pit Factory future. You know, just the minor points.

Anonymous said...

Are the postdocs and new hires who work at LANL really this delirious (and clueless) about what's happening at LANL? Or did LANS handpick the postdocs who where allowed to talk with the writers over at Nature?

Anonymous said...

Considering that postdocs are potential LANL staff members, you have to recognize that a certain amount of deliriousness and obtuseness will be part of their character. Look at current LANL staff if you have any doubts about this.

One must also recognize that LANL is now run by a private corporation which will go out of its way to assure that no staff are ever interviewed by journalists if they represent a risk to the official corporate party line.

Anonymous said...

What new hires?
Stiff recruiting competition, my arse!

Anonymous said...

Michelle,

Congrats on the new house, and the unexpected raise. As you probably know, the only real inconvenience associated with living up here is that you have to drive so far to do anything. However on the positive side, 60-75% of all the commuters in and out of Los Alamos use the Otowi bridge, every single day. Now I just happen to hold the title to that very bridge, and because you're clearly an astute individual with a long term commitment to the area I'm willing to offer you the opportunity to purchase a share in the bridge! If you could just fill a briefcase with small bills............

Anonymous said...

I just sent the following to Nature's feedback address: news@nature.com

Hi,

Regarding your recent special report,

http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070709/full/nj7150-220a.html

I wish to point out that quite a few current and past employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory view it as a one-sided management-inspired whitewash. For a more balanced view of the current state of morale at LANL, I suggest that you look at this post from the current LANL blog:

http://lanl-the-rest-of-the-story.blogspot.com/2007/07/fluff-piece.html

I worked at LANL for 20 years, and I left (in disgust, I might add, at how poorly the lab was being managed) in June, 2005. My colleagues who still work there tell me that the quality of management, and therefore the state of morale is even worse under the new contractor, LANS, LLC.

If I may suggest, Karen Fox did a below-par job of checking her references for this story.

Anonymous said...

You people are incredible. If it was not obvious before, it is completely clear now that your agenda, and perhaps by extension the agenda of this blog, is to damage LANL and try to help get it shut down. This article points out some positive aspects and talks with people interested in improving the place and returning it to preeminence. Building for the future. You know, the exact opposite of what you see on this blog.

I conclude that most of you either do not work at LANL now and are running your agenda to shut it down for your various reasons, or you do work at LANL and you are miserable but too cowardly or incompetent to move on.

What a bunch of pathetic losers.

I'll wait now to see all of the replies about how I am an idiot, an upper level manager, a sheep, and so on. Mixed in of course with insults for anyone quoted in the article with anything positive to say. In addition to your other fine attributes, you are all also quite predictable.

Anonymous said...

I'm in easily one of the best research groups at the lab.... and have 20+ years with some time elsewhere here and there. We write proposals (WFO), write papers, basic research the whole way. Everyone, and I mean everyone except maybe our postdocs, has nearly had it. We can not think of any positive developments in at least the past 10 years. In the past what is discussed in the nature article, the ability to move around across disciplines, is nearly non-existent. Bloated program offices control the funding on the larger projects, no longer the working staff, and you are easily as confined as a university group. As an old postdoc who moved from project to project... well that just does not happen anymore. Also, is is a complete joke to say, as in the articl, that we offer more diversity of activity compared to a major research university. Ha! Just no way. And our costs are really strangling the scientists... it is nearly impossible to bring in enough money to support the team and infrastructure and compete nationally. Almost all of us have job options, and almost everyone is seriously looking. Those staying put are tied by golden handcuffs and/or complicated kid/divorce arrangements.

Anonymous said...

6:52 says it like it is.

5:20 doesn't. He sounds like some young new twerp who really has no idea about what is going on at LANL; probably with no real work experience.

6:52, on the other hand describes the reality of life at LANL, if you are a scientist trying to do science. It is hopeless.

Anonymous said...

You can't win on this blog. Everything is conspiracy! It is rediculous and I will not waste my time here anymore, if you are all so unhappy then leave so the rest of us can have a chance.

Anonymous said...

For those that think it is hopeless, leave. Do the rest of us a favor that want to restore LANL to greatness again. We don't need you and you obviously don't need us. Shoo already. All you are doing here is doing your best to make sure your doom and gloom attitude is fulfilled in actuality, to justify how right you are. Why would you stay if you are this miserable? 6:52, I can describe a different team and lab environment. At the same laboratory.

Anonymous said...

No conspiracies here.

A couple of facts, though:

Since the large turnover that was inspired by Nanos' 'inspired' shutdown of the entire fucking lab for 7 months over a security incident that didn't even occur, there have been a trickle of young, relatively clueless newbies hire on to the lab. Postdocs, mostly, who have never worked anywhere else, and therefore have zero perspective. It is mostly them that you hear bleating for a return to "greatness" for LANL.

Under it's current corporate structure, that will never happen. Unfortunately, it takes time for young, inexperienced idealistic aspiring 'scientists' to come to grips with life's realities.

Since time is what it takes for the obvious to become recognized, then time is what we'll take. Enjoy the journey.

In case you have not already intuited this: I am one of the scientists who left after Nanos did his very best to wreck the place, and, coincidently, Bob Dynes and the rest of UC management did their best to help him. I'm out there in the real world, doing real science, and enjoying it.

My current employer does not have the crushing burden of a $450K FTE cost to overcome when bringing in new work, and so we are bringing in plenty of new, interesting work.

Stay at LANL and fester, if that is your choice. Please don't complain about it, though. You deserve what LANL has to dish out, if you choose to remain.

Anonymous said...

If you are unhappy here - yes, leave! It will open up more funds for those of us young staff who stay and stick it out. Zero sum game baby!

Anonymous said...

"Since the large turnover that was inspired by Nanos' 'inspired' shutdown of the entire fucking lab...."

You know, I've seen stat after stat, and looked at the numbers that were publicly available in the last months of the UC reign, and I never saw a "large turnover".

Bottom line is that the large turnover was (and still is) a myth. Attrition stayed at the same rate, plus or minus the standard deviation.

Since LANS took over, there HAS been a large loss of contractors; perhaps THAT is the large turnover to which you refer.

I have only seen one person quit from my Division since Nanos, and that individual still maintains a lab connection and e-mail address as some sort of affiliate; a lot of folks moan, but they still stick around.

K. Boland said...

Maybe if some of you pussies had signed your name to your comments they would have interviewed you.

Anonymous said...

"Fluff piece" makes me wonder?

Where do I get a cute, post-doc, fluffer.

Anonymous said...

David Chavez, who is quoted in the article, is hardly your average staff member. He was a LANL Reines Fellow as a postdoc who was hired on as staff in DX-2 just this last year. He's also being groomed for bigger and better things by LANL management and undoubtably has a somewhat skewed view of work life at the lab.

LANS appears to have picked the staff members for this article very carefully and Karen Fox did a poor job of digging out the range of views of the scientists at LANL. I know, as I talk with many the TSMs in my division and other divisions and I've never seen morale as bad as it is right now. Unlike David Chavez, I've been here for many years and have witnessed the decline that has slowly taken place over the last decade.

Doug Roberts said...

Good point, Kevin.

As for 8:43's comments:

15 people from *my group alone* left in the months following Nanos' shutdown, myself included. In fact, I was one of the 1,000 or so graduating members of the class of 2005.

Get your facts straight -- lots of people left as a result of the shutdown, replaced to some extent by younger, less experienced staff.

-Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired

Anonymous said...

The young talent for this article was hand-picked by Wallace. Please note that they did not pick anyone from B or C or even MPA/MST. Wallace has made sure that both the early TSMs quoted got mid-year discretionary LDRD funding and listen these kids are not stupid. Say nice things and Wallace won't go after you, something he is known for. Interesting how Chavez failed to mention how his former mentor and numerous others left in disgust after the DX-2 explosion in which Chavez and a student got injured. Or how DX-2 was shut down for months following the incident. Or how DX-2 has gotten rid of one their bright stars and early career TSM - E.O. Lawrence Award and R&D 100 Award winner - MyHang Huyhn by calling her a trouble maker and unstable. Funny how they did not interview her ...

Anonymous said...

"Where do I get a cute, post-doc, fluffer."


You're new around here, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Kevin Boland rules and 9:16 pm is just plain sick.

Anonymous said...

It has only been three years since the shutdown, and already people like 8:43 are trying to rewrite that part of LANL's history.

Make no mistake about it: the shutdown was a disaster. Lots of staff left because of it. Lots of Work For Others sponsors withdrew their funding because of it. It was an event that was so damaging to the lab that we may never recover from it.

Regarding the Nature article: it was an unfortunate fluff piece, but that is what we will have to expect from now on. The LANS Corporation simply will not tolerate bad press, and will do everything that they can to prevent staff from being interviewed who can not be guaranteed to spout the company line. That is the current reality of working at LANL.

Anonymous said...

10:35 PM - how can the shutdown be considered a complete disaster when Pete Nanos got promoted, so did Terry Wallace and so did Sue Seestrom?

Anonymous said...

10:35:

Kevin Boland may rule, but there's nothing wrong with a good fluffer.

K. Boland said...

Thanks, Doug.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Doug R, Brad H, John H, etc. who stood up for what they believe in and took the consequences for their principles. The rest of us should be so courageous.

(earning my nickname of KissButt)

I don't know David Chavez, but I work with a couple (present and former) Reines fellows, and they are pretty damn smart, and we should encourage their enthusiasm. They might be the ones who save the lab. Or maybe not, but WTF, let's let them try.

As far as a cute post- doc, maybe you should slow down. The PD who decided to sniff aqua regia was pretty damn cute and we all see how that turned out....

Anonymous said...

She sniffed, but did she swallow?

(Aqua Regia, I mean - you pervs)

Anonymous said...

7/12/07 10:41 PM said "As far as a cute post- doc, maybe you should slow down. The PD who decided to sniff aqua regia was pretty damn cute and we all see how that turned out...."

Yeah, she WON a lawsuit against the Lab and the PI who forced her to "sniff" that caustic acid is a disgrace to LANL and is living on borrowed Lab time ...

Anonymous said...

Terry is our hero and he really seems to care. And boy he seems to have lost a few pounds. Nice leather jacket too!

Anonymous said...

7:47pm, glad you are gone and in the "real world" doing real science and enjoying it. So why peek in here and tell everyone how bad it is here? Bored? Lonely?

Anonymous said...

How long will we wallow in the sorrow and self-pity of the shut down? We need to move on. Why do you allow Nanos to be the repository for all of your hate and self-pity? Why continue to hand him that kind of power over you? He isn't even here anymore, folks.

Yes the lab has been through difficult times and yes we are having some problems now. Things are far from perfect. But if you really look at it and THINK about it, you would realize that lesser institutions would have folded by now. This one has not, despite the many of you cheering it to do so.

No one is perfect. Whine all you like about Wallace or Seestrom or whomever else you care to vilify for the wrongs you perceive they have done to you in the past. If you can't get past this and actually help improve the state of matters at the lab, pick up your things and go. If you think the building is burning down, evacuate. Don't stand around and point fingers and make fun of those that don't smell the same smoke you do. How hard is this to understand? I just cannot understand why so many miserable people would want to stay. You will be better for leaving, and the place you are leaving will be better for it as well. Don't malign those that want to stay and help make things better for the future. What good does that do anyone, including yourselves?

John said...

So sick of "quit if you don't like it." People complain because they want to improve things; it's not clear to me why some people endure being shat on in silence. Ok, that is clear actually; they're scared or they're into scat. But what problem do they have with those of us who do complain? Jealous bec we don't share their cowardice?

There's a point where too much negativity is no longer constructive; perhaps they feel our complaints have reached that point. But then if those bastards are unhappy with what they perceive to be our lack of constructive criticism, it should be embarrassing to them that the most articulate, constructive comment they can make is, "well, uh, I mean, uh, if you don't like it, uh, yeah, I don't know, you know, uh, like, uh, quit or something."

We all need to watch Idiocracy and fear our shared future with these inarticulate shit-lovers.

John said...

7/12/07 11:34 PM should not be included in "inarticulate shit-lovers." He is thoughtful and constructive is his suggestion that we move beyond just complaining.

But I still believe we have an obligation to attack these fluff pieces. Yes, we shouldn't attack LANL so much that we hasten its demise, but we also shouldn't allow outsiders to be fooled by ridiculous fluff either. Look, LLNL complained about benefits and got results; Roberts et al rid us of Nanos. Being honest about our problems is our best strategy. Just getting the info out about our inflated FTE overheads might be enough to encourage some movement in a positive direction.

To 7/12/07 11:34 PM and others who are trying to be thoughtful when they urge us to stop complaining, I thank you for engaging in dialog about topics about which we all clearly care deeply. To those others who just say, "quit if you don't like it," I would tell you to eat shit but I'm scared you'd enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 7/12/07 6:52 PM writes about no longer being able to move among projects. One of the things that attracted me to LANL was its size and the diversity of work. Unforetunatley, with the new management and the diminishing budget, there are very few TSM openings for individuals to do REAL technical work. You are really stuck in your present job.

Anonymous said...

I've said it once and I will say it again..

Double dippers, you need to retire. We are all very grateful that you worked hard for many years but it's time to go. Don't stay here so unhappy that all you do is complain on this blog. Just retire and go fishing.

It is time to go.

Anonymous said...

7/13/07 5:42 AM - you need to look in ADCLES. There are lots of job opportunities. Make an appt with the AD.

Anonymous said...

In keeping with the spirit of this thread, I propose that "double dippers" be renamed "sloppy seconds."

Anonymous said...

Well, as far as I can tell, Terry finally can say he has published in Nature. Maybe we will see it in a upcoming PADSTE highlight!

Anonymous said...

I have met both of the TSM's interviewed for this article. They have some shared qualities: They are both determined optimists, who focus more on "What can I deliver to the people who are funding me?" than on what their funding agencies can do for them. Neither has relied on handouts or favoritism. They are creative and resourceful individuals who are rich in character and spirit. It's sad to see anyone take cheap shots at them.

Anonymous said...

7/13/07 10:36 AM - Agreed. I know Dave Chavez and he is a great guy who has been through a lot and has perservered. Kuckuck thought the world of Dave. Although I have not met Michell Espy I have heard outstanding things from others regarding her. WHy is it that when someone around here succeeds and is seemingly a threat to the lazy-self-entitled-establishment they get bashed by anonymous people on this blog? I have seen this time and time again. Kevin Boland said it best.

Anonymous said...

Michelle is likewise top-notch.

Anonymous said...

I also know Dave Chavez well and Los Alamos is extremely lucky to have him. In addition to being a top scientist he is also a quality person in every way. He has chosen to stay at Los Alamos for his own reasons, and should not be criticized for doing his best in such adverse conditions. He has been through a lot in his young career, and his comments are not a "white wash" in my reading. I wish Dave and Los Alamos well; although I have found a much better place to work...

Anonymous said...

"Get your facts straight -- lots of people left as a result of the shutdown..."

I don't doubt that your group lost the amount of people that you say it did; however, such a large attrition wasn't reflected in the overall employment numbers of the lab.

If you look at the big picture, there wasn't a statistically significant difference in the amount of people that left the lab.

(And no, I don't believe that for ever person that left and new kid slid in the door; it took too damn long to hire anyone externally in the Nanos years, and immediately thereafter, and still takes too long. Also, there have been serious restrictions on external hiring since BEFORE Nanos. And post-doc and contractor conversions were difficult, too, and still are.)

Here is a fact: The great exodus is a myth, plain and simple. And even if it were true, what would it truly signify?

Anonymous said...

11:01 PM said, "Terry is our hero and he really seems to care. And boy he seems to have lost a few pounds. Nice leather jacket too!"

This is fascinating. I just saw Terry the other day and he looks nothing like the photo in this article. Perhaps the photo is pre-pastry and PADSTE is really pronounced PASTRY?

Anonymous said...

To 7/12/07 10:20 PM - you know nothing about Huynh ... crazy, crazy woman who is getting everything blown up her butt (funding, payouts, hush money) by threatening she was "harassed"...

Anonymous said...

7:52 am:

"Double dippers, you need to retire. We are all very grateful that you worked hard for many years but it's time to go. Don't stay here so unhappy that all you do is complain on this blog. Just retire and go fishing."

Well, let's review the characteristics of "double dippers." 1)They have been around long enough to earn a substantial UC retirement. 2) They have chosen to take that retirement that is their due and harms no current LANS employee. 3) Their expertise and experience is valuable to LANS management, hence their continuing employment. 4) Their value to the company and to the Laboratory is at least as high as that of the youngsters who complain and urge them to leave. 5) They earn a salary commensurate with their value and will pass on their expertise gladly.

So, you young losers who can't win unless someone better than you retires, bite me. Take the opportunity to learn something from someone who's actually paid some dues.

Anonymous said...

The problem with double dippers is that they think they are the only ones who can do the job. In reality, they are slowing the progression of the lab to the next step. No argument that they did great work but to stay here until you die is stupid. MOVE ON!!!

Anonymous said...

"I just bought a new house — I'm planning to stay."

"You can buy Michelle's house in a year. 50% off."

At the top of every market bubble, there is one greater fool, who was the last to buy into the ponzi scheme. For housing in Los Alamos, Espy is that person, declaring her financial imprudence in (god help her) Nature. What a legacy.

The only thing that could make this more delicious would be her inability to sell her old house. Anyone know if she has a bridge loan?

Inventory in LA is SKYROCKETING. From 160 single family units 3 months ago, to almost 200 as of today. Of course, this may not be as much an exodus as effed buyers trying to bail out of their investment properties. How many reading this blog know somebody that made that brilliant move? This spike in inventory is due to the double whammy of an impending LANL RIFF and the greater (national) housing collapse.

Anonymous said...

Hey Double-Dipshit,
1. True, 2. True
3. BS - your continued employment is due to your hanging around. No one gets fired, if they keep their nose marginally clean.
4. True, but disingenuous. Unless you are a designer who has set one off, your value is nil. No positive value, just the cost of getting rid of you is too high in the sense that it is a pain in the ass.
5. Not likely. Just years of accreted raises. No real correlation of pay and value.

Learn what? How to keep your head down and putter around with inconsequential projects and useless meetings. Sign me up, gramps.

Anonymous said...

"I just bought a new house — I'm planning to stay."

If you buy a house in Los Alamos now, you better plan to stay for a good long time ... A large number of LANS management invested in Santa Fe. They have a different strategy.

Here are some numbers for you, according to realtor.com, for single family homes on the market in LA county:

March 3, 2007, 128 homes
July 15, 2007, 195 homes

There are a few buyers out there, but many are waiting for the prices to continue to drop...

I noticed this reported recently in the monitor:

"We're no longer a temporary town," County Administrator Max Baker said as he stood before Chamber of Commerce members during their monthly Business Breakfast Thursday. "We're here to stay."

There certainly is a housing penalty to try and leave now...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well if they bought big, the LANS manegement are F--ked buyers too. Look at SFe inventory. Similar story to Los Alamos. Its all going to look like Pheonix soon, and then the alt-a default tsunami kicks in (2008). Nobodys going to be relocating anyware soon (nation wide).

Oh yeah, and your TCP-1 pension is riddled with that soon to default debt. No home equity + no pension + 529 increase in property taxes on your McMansion + 14% inflation (US M3) + no wage increase. Good thing you bought that new SUV and took that big vacation!

Gussie, maybe you should start a thread on the stampede out of housing in Los Alamos -- as an early indicator of what is going on at the lab?

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

The risks of being invested in the Los Alamos housing market are obvious, and will become more so if/when the RIFs start.

Owning in Santa Fe is less risky than Los Alamos because it is not a one-company town. The high end of the Santa Fe market in particular is not as sensitive to the country-wide housing market slowdown because so many wealthy people still want to live in Santa Fe.

It is unclear to me to what extent the slow housing market in Los Alamos is due to LANL's present state, and how much is due to the national economy. What is clear to me is that trying to sell a house in LA will become much more difficult if the FY'08 budget meets its current low expectations.

--Gussie

Anonymous said...

"But I remain optimistic. The lab is going to remain a world-class place to work."

LANS will beat any offer by indian or chinese offshoring firms by at least 2%.

Anonymous said...

7/15/07 9:12 PM: "LANS will beat any offer by indian or chinese offshoring firms by at least 2%."

Truth: No, they won't. Wanna go to India or China? Bye-bye...

(Profit margin for Bechtel goes up. Yippeeeee!)