Aug 1, 2007

LANL 101

The Santa Fe Reporter has just run a nice perspective piece on LANL. I remember when they interviewed Doug Roberts a year and a half ago during the tail end of his stint as owner/moderator of LANL, The Real Story:

http://sfreporter.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=1&num=762


Here they go again, this time with Laura Paskus doing a nice job summing up the current situation at LANL:

http://sfreporter.com/articles/publish/cover-080107-lanl-101.php

LANL 101
By Laura Paskus


Published: August 1, 2007

10 things you need to know—and might wish you didn’t—about Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Budget cuts. Nuclear warheads. Security lapses. It’s been a high-profile year for Los Alamos National Laboratory. The lab has been under new


Cover illustration: Gilbert Ford
Cover design: Angela Moore
management for just over 12 months, but its public
profile remains as complex and murky as ever. And while its future is by no means uncertain, there may be changes on the horizon, as the talk in Washington turns toward the lab needing to diversify its mission away from nuclear weapons work.

[...]

Read the complete story.

--Gussie

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not quite. Nobody from LANL or LANS was iterviewed, only long-standing LANL haters such as Greg Mello.

Mayor of Espanola crying about low incomes in his town relative to Los Alamos. How about getting some of his consituents an education? Of course if they had an education, they wouldn't vote for him.

Doug Roberts said...

How do you know, 7:17? In my experience the SFR has always checked their sources. Also, I didn't see anything in the reporting that was not balanced or accurate.


--Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired.

Anonymous said...

and if the lab takes big budgets cuts ALL of norhtern NM will look like Rio Arriba County. Too damned bad if the median income in Los Alamos is higher than in shithole Espanola. Instead of looking only at income, how about looking at education levels and the kinds of jobs involved: PhD scientist vs high-school dropout Wal-Mart clerk... oh ya I see now why the incomes should be the same.

K. Boland said...

Agree with Doug. The article seemed pretty balanced to me.
(Disclaimer for this post: I work primarily on UO2 oxidation)
I'd love to see LANL work much more on nuclear energy programs, as well as H2 storage. (another disclaimer: I think Osama bin Ladin is an asshole, and we should stop supporting his patrons in Saudi Arabia) There are a lot of really bright people who could do some great science in the area of nuclear power production. Let's face it, "energy independence" is bullshit, but it would be great if the US could depend more on nuclear power to meet it's energy needs, and less on oil from the middle east. Japan, for instance, was much smarter-- they saw the 1973 gas crisis, and decided that maybe they should depend less on the middle east for their energy. (OK, so they don't have a lot of energy sources) Now we see that their nuclear power plants survived the recent earthquake extremely well. And they aren't involved in an oil war in the middle east. Hopefully, if we ask nicely, they (and France, et al) will help us with our MOX program. Burn WGPu, get electricity. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Anonymous said...

Doug: "How do you know, 7:17?"

How do you know what, Doug? How do you know that Espanola kids mostly don't even finish high school, let alone get a college education? Well, there are federal statistics for such things. That's how we know, Doug. One of the most egregious areas of NM for not only discounting, but actively denigrating, the value of eductaion is the northern NM Rio Grande Valley. You get what your culture values.

Doug Roberts said...

7:17 claimed that nobody from LANL had been interviewed for the story. I asked how he knew that.

-Doug Roberts

Anonymous said...

7:17PM subscribes the notion that only the new arrivals of Los Alamos have what it takes. What does getting an education have to do with the widespread racial and gender bias that is by now known to be a core competency at the Los Alamos National Laboratory? How may lawsuits and analyses showing the reality that even with an education, minorities and women are still being treated like second class citizens by the new arrivals of Los Alamos that still consider themselves "the best and brightest" doing the "worlds best science" working at the "crown jewel" establishment of the national lab complex? This institutionally sanctioned notion that everyone else out there is less qualified, particularly the "locals," is evidence of how widespread and engrained the arrogance is at this institution. Enough already with the excuses 7:17PM! The Mayor of Espanola is as valid in his concerns, as are many community leaders from other surrounding communities who are equally sick and tired of their elected officials treating Los Alamos like it's excrement don't stink. Well let me tell you, I've been in those "prestine" restrooms on executive wing of the Lab when the Lab Director himself has just finished taking a dump. Believe me, I can attest to the fact that it DOES stink! We aren't that much different in other words, for those we like to look down our noses at.

Anonymous said...

8/1/07 10:15 PM

Doesn't Rio Arriba county lead the state, if not even the nation, in drug trafficing?

Anonymous said...

8/2/07 8:31 AM
Not trafficing but overdose deaths from illegal drugs, Los Alamos, if truthful isn't that far behind Rio Arriba. And even one death from this scourge diminishes us all.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8/2/07 8:23 AM writes: "...he widespread racial and gender bias that is by now known to be a core competency at the Los Alamos National Laboratory."

The only discrimination that I have seen at LANL has been against White males over the age of 50. Recall the lawsuit over the 1995 RIF: Of the five plaintiffs (two women, two Hispanic males, and one 55-year old White male), the only one that prevailed was the 55-year old White male.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that we can't focus on the true problems of this country instead of bashing one another. We are caught in a strange occurrence whereby two individuals on the House committee have the power to destroy the laboratory. If Bush and the Congress weren't arguing over the Iraq situation, we might have a budget instead of a CR. So, the 80% of the lowest budget submitted becomes law until a budget is passed.

It would be splendid if we could not be personal and bash each other and take the high ground. As for the "true facts", it is likely that most of what is written is opinion and not fact. News journalists are under the gun to sell papers and entertain. No where is it written that they cannot blend their facts with editorial comments. Most of the rebuttal on this blog also indicates that many are shooting from the hip.

Things are going to be unpleasant enough with each of us stun gunning the other. Stick to attacking the ideas and philosophy of the current situation and stop quarreling amongst yourselves. Remember that the perfect way to defeat is to divide and conquer.

A 31 yr + employee.

Anonymous said...

8/2/07 8:31 AM
Not trafficing but overdose deaths from illegal drugs, Los Alamos, if truthful isn't that far behind Rio Arriba. And even one death from this scourge diminishes us all.

8/2/07 9:42 AM

Even addiction is a problem. A sad truth of living in Northern NM is that if you do not work for the laboratory you are going to have a hard time earning a decent living.

..But the the mayor of Espanola should quit his bitching and find a way to help change the cultural morays so that education is encouraged, and find a way to reduce the drug use.

Similarly, the hill does have a problem also. LAPD works hard to crack down on the problem as do the State Police and the Espanola police. They all have to operate within the bounds of the constitution

Anonymous said...

Here comes the next cyber-security tool, a "social media compliance product" for the corporate execs who want to know what their employees are saying outside of the workplace.


www.informationweek.com
/blog/main/archives/2007/07
/new_tool_for_sn.html


New Tool For Snooping On Employees Who Blog

A small company in the Rochester, N.Y., area is about to launch Web monitoring technology that's touted as a way to keep companies out of hot water as more employees author Weblogs and wikis. Experience shows that businesses are well advised to pay attention to what employees post online, but Techrigy's technology (part software, part service) sounds like corporate oversight taken a step too far.

Techrigy bills its offering, called SM2, as a "social media compliance product." As a service, it ties into blog search engines like Technorati, looking for potentially sensitive information published by a company's employees. SM2 creates an index of what it finds and a catalog of "company violations," and provides real-time notifications to the guardians of company secrets. My colleague Nick Hoover wrote about SM2 last week. The service is due this month; a software version of SM2 for monitoring a company's internal blogs and wikis is scheduled for release later this summer.

Techrigy compares its technology to widely used e-mail monitoring tools, but there's an important difference. While companies can make a case for monitoring incoming and outgoing e-mail, sent to and from employees over corporate networks and e-mail accounts, that's not the same as monitoring employee e-mail accounts outside of work. Techrigy's service is designed to go that extra step -– monitor the Web for employee postings made from their home PCs and on their own time.

How does Techrigy president Aaron Newman defend employee snooping on Web 2.0? His argument is that many companies remain hamstrung by fear that employee blogging will expose them to legal liability or reveal company secrets, so they don't permit it all. SM2, the thinking goes, allows companies to move forward with Web 2.0 initiatives because they can be confident that safeguards are in place to keep employees on their best behavior and alert the company if they're not.

Anonymous said...

To 10:17 AM

Shooting from the hip and at themselves.

Anonymous said...

Rio Arriba also proudly leads in unwed teen mothers and high school dropout rates....

Anonymous said...

That's a statement that is subject to verification. Can you provide a link to some statistics to prove it?

Anonymous said...

Statistics mean nothing. They can be manipulated in many ways. I have worked at LANL 20+ years and have seen it all. I don't care what race one is. If you do not possess the right skills, training, life experiences etc and are lazy, no work ethic, on the lab and cell phone all day with kids, arranging personal appointments, surfing the internet, taking long lunch hours, not putting in a 8 or 9 hour day depending on your schedule, excessive absences disappearing for hours from your work area, coming in late and just plain stupid etc. It does not matter what race you are. I see it with whites, blacks, hispanics, asians etc. Upper level managers to the lowliest. LANL is totally screwed up and really I don't think it can ever be fixed.

Anonymous said...

a ray of sunshine in the shit-black night

Anonymous said...

8:10 pm

"LANL is totally screwed up and really I don't think it can ever be fixed."

It can be fixed, just like all other corporate environments are "fixed" in the US. Non-performers are just fired, no appeal, no whining, no bullcrap. Just clean out your desk by the end of the day and leave. Or, if we think you will cause trouble, just leave now (under escort) and we'll send you your petty crap. In any case, we'll give your position to someone else who will get to show, in very short order, if he/she has what it takes by our definition. If not, here we go again. Sooner or later, we'll find an employee who knows what it means to work for the company, not for his/herself. It's not rocket science. And, rocket scientists need not apply. Who needs science anyway. Most of what LANL does, and has done for the past ten years or so, is not science. (Let the caterwauling begin).

Anonymous said...

"It's not rocket science. And, rocket scientists need not apply. Who needs science anyway." (9:54 PM)

The scary thing is, I sense that lots of employees who now work at LANL feel exactly like poster 9:54 PM. Guess they'll be very happy when the SCIENCE lab becomes nothing more than a Pit Factory offering production jobs requiring no creativity. Is this the type of future you really want for yourself and for your kids? How sad.

Anonymous said...

Declaration

Events of recent history indicate that Americans are setting a course
for the end of their own great nation. The ever growing trend in this country is to judge people, not by their individual character, but by their identity as a member of a specific group. No one has ever succeeded or failed in life as a result of their group affiliation. A person's success or failure is also not based on luck, but on the sum total of the decisions that they have made. Those who succeed do so through good work ethic and their wise use of their power to choose. The opposite is true for those who fail. The ideals of individual accountability and responsibility in the United States are dying everyday. A gun cannot be responsible for a death, just as a shovel cannot be responsible for digging a ditch. Both are only tools and have no will of their own. Responsibility is an adjunct through conscious choice and is the price we pay for freedom. Freedom is also a tool. It is an essential tool needed by human beings if they are to prosper, rather than to merely survive. Yet there are those who would rather trade their freedom for security. Some believe that it is the responsibility of government to provide for you. In truth, we form government to ensure and protect the freedom that is already inherently ours

Stuck Mojo

Anonymous said...

Dream on. LANL can NOT be fixed. It's just too disfunctional...way too disfunctional. Sad situation, but true.

Anonymous said...

8:10's impressions are the same as mine, right down to the 20+ years experience with LANL. That's why I left last year -- I believe there is no way LANL can be fixed. More than that, I don't believe there is any desire on the part of either DOE, NNSA, nor LANS to fix it, unless you consider turning the place into a pit fab plant "fixing" LANL. Sadly, I'm fully aware that this is many people's intent for the lab.

I've worked at a number of other places, including the new one where I currently am employed. No place is perfect, but *no* place I've ever been was as screwed up as LANL is.

Anonymous said...

Not only is there an overall poor work ethic at LANL, the ability to function as a scientific institution is gone. Science can not operate in an environment where questioning is not permitted. One must be able to question at every level, every decision, every requirement, anything and everything, freely with no hint of retribution.

This is no longer possible at LANL. No matter what requirement is passed down to employees, it must be accepted without question, no matter how idiotic or useless. These constant requirements increase costs and hamper productivity. When the effects of requirements are not fully analyzed prior to issuing an edict that "all employees and contractors must ...", LANL management and DOE/NNSA lose more of whatever little respect they might have.

A case in point is the mandated traffic class everyone must take so that LANL does not have to close roads during materials transport. On the surface this might be at the noise level, but it is not because the requirement for a test necessitates administrative access on the cryptocard. So a large number of those taking this 5 minute class must schedule time at a training center to be proctored to ensure that the person taking the test is really the person getting credit for the test. This is for legal, not safety, reasons! If you have taken the class, do something dumb, get involved in an accident during a materials transport, you can be punished, up to being fired!

The reasoning behind this is specious. It is based on being able to maintain open roads during materials transport rather than the current process of closing roads for a short period of time. However, some of these roads are accessed not only by LANL employees and contractors. Visitors who come to LANL use these roads, tourists use these roads, Los Alamos county citizens and staff use these roads. There is no way to ensure that EVERYONE on the road at the time of the materials transport has been "trained". Moreover those who commute in buses and van pools rarely drive private vehicles on LANL roads. The same can be said for those who walk.

A more even approach to this would be to make sure that anyone driving a government vehicle has access to the rules at the time the vehicle is checked out (LANL does not even know if those driving government vehicles have valid drivers licenses!), to post the rules on the main LANL website (a test for a 5 minute course is ludicrous), to have group leaders spend a couple of minutes in the monthly group meeting discussing the rules, and then to realize that a subset of the population will never see them. An example of not following driving rules are all the New Mexico drivers who believe the number on the speed limit sign is the minimum, not the maximum!

NNSA/LASO seems to be the real culprit in this fiasco, requiring a test which requires administrative access. This is another example of a waste of taxpayers' money and should be reported to the DOE Inspector General and our Congressional delegation. The email address for the DOE is

ighotline@hq.doe.gov

Anonymous said...

Poster 9:06 AM, if you think the new driving test is bad, just wait till you see what is coming down the road from DOE in regards to unclassified computer usage at LANL. A recent memo from Bodman to Anastacio only hinted at it.

All unclassified computers at LANL are about to go through an accrediting process similar to what is currently done with LANL secure PCs. A rigorous "computer plan" will be required for every unclassified PC before you will even be allowed to switch it on, and the paperwork to accomplish this new requirement is going to be very burdensome. When it becomes nearly impossible to even operate an unclassified PC at LANL, you know it's time to call it quits. The morons over at DOE and NNSA won't give up until this place is completely frozen by their bureaucratic minutiae.

worker # xxxxxx said...

"No matter what requirement is passed down to employees, it must be accepted without question, no matter how idiotic or useless. These constant requirements increase costs and hamper productivity. When the effects of requirements are not fully analyzed prior to issuing an edict that "all employees and contractors must ...", LANL management and DOE/NNSA lose more of whatever little respect they might have."

There are a lot of posters on Readers' Forum (which is 99% lame, perhaps because one cannot post anonymously on it) who say things like; "oh, it's just a minor inconvenience, what's the big deal?" the big deal to me is that we have no venue for pushback against these edicts. most of the requirements that are foisted upon us are infantilizing, and their only reason for existence is for the lab to project the appearance of Safety and Security, while in actual fact they usually jeopardize both.

this lack of venue for dissenting voices of the bearers of common sense is but a small part of the larger problem, which is total lack of true communication from the Top. the Top does not care that these unreasonable policies foment poor morale, higher costs, precipitous drops in productivity, and widespread feelings of despair, isolation, and disempowerment; it only cares that they cover their ass with respect to the impressions of the DOE & congress. (and the media sure doesn't help. i saw the cover of the reporter and cringed: "oh my god, what new insane knee-jerk requirements to ruin my life will happen NOW..." oy.)

a case in point: the new random drug testing program. a Readers' Forum poster replied to complaints about this program by saying something like, "the only people who disagree with this policy are drug users--LANS holds the purse strings, and has the right to demand whatever they like, so if you don't like it go work somewhere else."

first of all, i feel sorry for people like this because they have obviously internalized the punitive mind-set that is so rampant at LANL, and as a consequence have given up the whole notion of civil rights. it makes me want to say, "you think like a soldier, why don't you go work for the army?"

second, i am not a drug user -- the reason i bristle at this policy is its punitive details, to wit: if "They" call you and cannot find you within an hour, and your supervisor or admin cannot find you, you are assumed guilty. i often have to go to different TAs /buildings during work...so am i supposed to find my supervisor every time i leave the building? it feels like having to get a hall pass to use the bathroom.

we are treated as if we are not adult law-abiding professionals, but conniving juvenile delinquents. after many years of school and many years of working in science, i am expected to not resent this?

Anonymous said...

What many LANL employees fail to recognize it that LANL is not some democratic institution where everyone gets to vote on management, policy, rules, salary, etc. It really doesn't matter what 99% of the employees think; the only choice most employees have is to stay or to leave.

Anonymous said...

1:04AM isn't entirely correct. Lab employees can resist in any number of ways. This blogg is just one tool we have at our disposal. The notion that the Lab is an island unto itself, that Lab management is accountable to no one, that our only option as workers is to stay or leave is obscene is frightening. I choose to stay and resist. I choose NOT to give in to tyranny. I choose to fight Darth Vader and the dark side forces of evil. I am Luke Skywalker incarnate! Onward and forward we go!!!

PS This place is driving me nuts. What about you, Sleepless in Los Alamos at 1:04AM?

Anonymous said...

Worker # xxxxxx didn't state the action of the random drug test correctly. If they call you, but cannot reach you (i.e., they cannot just leave a message and expect you to show up), they don't start the clock. If you are reached (as I was recently), they will give you a time to come and meet your pee bottle. Big deal. Yes, it was a bit embarressing to walk into the big blue van out front, but I had nothing to hide, so my sample was acceptable. Folks who are using illegal drugs after hours (or worse yet, at work!), are the ones who should be concerned. LANL is cleaning house, just like much of industry is doing now. We have to quit kidding ourselves that regular drug users (even pot smokers) are equally as capable, alert and fit for duty as others.

As for this comment:
"the big deal to me is that we have no venue for pushback against these edicts. most of the requirements that are foisted upon us are infantilizing, and their only reason for existence is for the lab to project the appearance of Safety and Security, while in actual fact they usually jeopardize both."

One workable solution to this is to join and participate in workers committees to improve, push back, and/or rework the insane edicts which seem to flow like water since the Admiral was in charge. WSST (workers safety and security team) is one venue, which seems to work. In my own division, I have usually been able to make a difference, and eventually help change dumb policies. It does require time and effort on my part, and I sometimes wonder "why do I have to do this, just to make work better". But it goes on the same charge code as the real work, just detracts from getting as much technical work done ... one of the many handicaps which is hurting LANL right now.

Anonymous said...

To poster 8/4/07 10:00 AM - you are not entirely correct, remember Lab management said that they would be accountable to each other!

worker # xxxxxx said...

thank you for your WSST suggestion. i was on the IWM committee a while back and felt it was a good expereince. i joined it in order to try to prevent unduly burdensome requirements on my division. the difference there was that they formed a committee and told people about it BEFORE handing down the edicts!! so it is not true that LANL is a 100% undemocratic totalitarian state (just 99%).

i joined the lab as a scientist, not as a foot soldier, and i want to do what i can to make a positive change-- not because i am some lazy drug addict, but because i think that all the scientists here deserve to be treated with respect.

Anonymous said...

Stuck Mojo, 8/3 @ 301am:
"No one has ever succeeded or failed in life as a result of their group affiliation. A person's success or failure is also not based on luck, but on the sum total of the decisions that they have made. Those who succeed do so through good work ethic and their wise use of their power to choose."

This is a laugh. The current wielder of Supreme Executive Power has succeeded in the extreme, solely through his affiliation with his family's network of rich right-wing moneychangers. Without Poppy he'd be no more than the bull-goose redneck abusing his cronies at the bait-shop. Others affiliated with his "group" remain free and powerful where outsiders would be imprisoned for treasonous actions, or at least have their security clearances revoked. Maybe even suspended?

Our Dear Leader is even proud of this, publicly bullying PhD-holding underlings in at least two press events (one including Bodman). Many posts in this forum indicate solid support for this person and his policies. I'm dying to know what their safe-word would be when they get their chance to be the receiver of that good man's rough play.

Relevance to this thread? Competence, good work ethic, all that rot is rapidly becoming meaningless, perhaps detrimental, for anyone not affiliated with the proper group, at all scales of social activity in the US. Why should a rational economic agent expend any more energy above that required to maintain their position?

Anonymous said...

There is only one "protected group" that exists in the US these days and that's the ultra wealthy. And, since you are obviously wasting your valuable time readying this post, it's clear that you're not in it. Drats!

Anonymous said...

Poster 8/4/07 10:59 AM thank you for your WSST suggestion. I would love to join this committee so that I too can hand out stress brains of many colors with the "think safety, live safely" logo written on it.

worker # xxxxxx said...

ok, squishy-brain-stress-toy poster, i know what you mean, and i am a natural cynic as well. i am a cynic but i am SOMEHOW still an optimist... maybe because i am a relative newbie to LANL (less than 5 years--it feels like a hundred).

but what is so wrong with trying to do something to make things better for your fellow humans, even when it seems futile? i mean, i send money to charity orgs and i've no idea whether or not it makes a difference, but i just have to assume that it does, because what if nobody in the US who makes Bank like we do ever sent anything to people who have SO MUCH LESS? call me a naive optimist but i think that would have dire consequences.

same goes for LANL. if nobody with common sense ever tried to make a difference, then we are all doomed (which is the sense i get from reading this blog, and it depresses the hell out of me).

i would really love to read some posts with actual suggestions about how to take action and make LANL more bearable. any takers? you all have more years & experience at LANL than i.

w.

Anonymous said...

8/5/07 7:13 PM wrote, "i would really love to read some posts with actual suggestions about how to take action and make LANL more bearable."

Yes, worker # xxxxxx, have your senior management actually stop the ISDs from coming out in gunshot form and do something about the plethora of useless paperwork exercises and training from being mandated for no reason at all.

Doug said...

"i would really love to read some posts with actual suggestions about how to take action and make LANL more bearable."

Good luck, worker # xxxxxx. I left LANL precisely because I saw no inclination on the part of UC to address LANL's numerous problems in any substantive fashion.

The subsequent awarding of the contract to LANS, effectively retaining many of the resident UC-fostered managers simply validated my decision.

Your mileage, or course, may vary.

--Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired
http://www.parrot-farm.net/~roberts/lanl-the-real-story/