Jun 18, 2009

Special Edition of Comment of the Week

Every now and then something happens around here that would likely just get lost in the noise. This comment speaks for itself, and carries an important message. It seemed appropriate to give it some visibility.

______________________________________


I don't know where else to post this, but I just wanted to say...

Adios LANL

After years of debate, I have finally decided I am taking my ball and going to play elsewhere. Today I quit my job at the lab.

I came to LANL straight out of grad school and have worked here now for several years. During that time, I regularly brought in multi-million dollars of funding each FY, scored in the top 3 on ORC scores in my group, blah, blah, blah. And during that time I can't say that I was allowed to do any science. In fact, LANL killed my scientific career -- many of my colleagues from other institutions pointed out how little of my potential I was being allowed to reach by staying here.

What Mikey and Terry and their LANS management croanies fail to realize is that LANL's reputation is SO bad right now, that most of the top universities are telling their students not to apply here. Many of them (a few that I have had relationships with) won't even let our scientists speak to their students anymore.

But the bigger problem to me is that LANS management just doesn't care. They don't care about getting science done or recruiting and retaining the best of the best. The only thing they care about are their bonuses and it doesn't matter to them who they step on or what science they crush along the way. Make no mistake, fellow bloggers. THEY DO NOT CARE. We can complain all we want on this blog, in the censored Reader's Forum, or wherever about how bad conditions have become. But the bottom line is that if those complaints don't put money into their pockets, it just doesn't matter to them.

So this junior staffer has had enough and is finally going to stand up and try to recreate a technical reputation. I am going someplace where I am being given the resources to do my job, not being punished for self-reporting cell phone incidents, and where I will actually be allowed to do science.

I would wish the LANS management "good luck," but from what I can tell, they were brought in to get LANL shut down and that is just not something I want to wish them well on.

61 comments:

MIKEY said...

Will this affect my bonus?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you need a high ORC to do pit production. Or cleanup.

Doug Roberts said...

Good luck to you. As a number of us have discovered, it is entirely feasible to find a more productive (less dysfunctional?) place of employment in which to pursue your professional interests.

--Doug

Anonymous said...

good for you! you decided (unlike some) that rather than bitching on a blog, you are going to do something about it. congrats on the new move and i wish you nothing but the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Good luck to you. And from personal experience, your productivity will soar after leaving this work free safety zone. I only hope that you also made your decision public at LANL/LANS, although as you have already stated LANS certainly does not care, but your colleagues may.

Anonymous said...

I must confess I am a bit jealous of your situation. Many of us are forced (at some level) to stay here to protect our pensions, our homes, our family situations etc. Personally, I would love to leave LANS behind and never look back. Unfortunately, at this point in my career, there are precious few outside organizations who want my specialized skills and none who would pay the salary that I make at LANS to sit and watch the grass grow on the long-ago-abandoned scientific fields here. I wonder how many here would leave in a second if they could get a genuine cashout from LANS. I know I would. I expect there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of others who would too. Good luck. You obviously have too much integrity to advance under LANS.

Anonymous said...

Let's see LANS put this on their LANL blog.

Anonymous said...

And, even though you are out of here in quick time, still posting anon. This is a clear indication of the rule of fear instilled by LANS. Folks that worked at LANL in days of yore really don't understand. Except for Sig.

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily a fear motivation, 7:20. Some people just plain don't want to be able to be associated with LANL, especially when moving to a new position of employment.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kevin! Let's see you spin this.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 7:26 that there are other motivations. For example, commenting negatively on a previous employer is a black mark on a new employee, even if the comments are accurate and widely believed to be true. Doing so publicly on blog that will leave a searchable electronic record forever (or at least for the rest of a person's career), would be highly career-limiting, even if your new or prospective employer hates LANL.

Anonymous said...

Yea! Good luck, let us hear from you with-in 6 months or so, I'll just bet your work life will have improved.

Doug Roberts said...

Or, not necessarily, 7:41. Commenting negatively on your previous employer is definitely not for the faint of heart, however. Especially when that employer is LANL, with all of its powerful well-funded backers.

However, having your own point of view published in the New York Times, Nature, NPR, and Physics Today doesn't hurt any.

Right, Brad?

Anonymous said...

OK Doug, fair enough. However, look at the costs and the benefits for Dr. COW. The risk is there for a lifetime of career trouble, and the benefit is blowing off steam for a couple of minutes.

In contrast, I would not say that you are in the same position. Your efforts - which I admire - have been seen in the scientific community as an attempt to save an admired institution. Your effort ultimately failed, but you fought the good fight.

By the way, that was a way too obvious attempt by you to fish for compliments. You get the compliments anyway.

Doug Roberts said...

Thanks, 8:02, but I was (primarily) fishing for compliments for Brad Holian, who was my inspiration to go public, as it were, back in 2004.

Brad published the original refutation of LANL's current chosen course of action in his now famous Physics Today article, in which he challenged Nanos' claims of rampant safety problems at LANL.

Brad was the first LANL scientist to stand up, and using his own name, cry "bullshit" to the unfounded claims of lab-wide malfeasance by staff. It really was management that turned out to be the problem, as we are now slowly beginning to see.

Anonymous said...

croanies?

a fake letter

Anonymous said...

"Hey Kevin! Let's see you spin this.

6/18/09 7:33 PM"

As LANL faces an ever rapidly changing future we must reconsider the workforce make-up in order to rise to future challenges that LANL will be asked face for the good of the country. These changes are an opportunity for LANS to bring in fresh talent to meet these needs in the optimal fashion. We must make LANL a more agile agency with a highly adaptable and vigorous work force. We must all realize that change is is the wave of the future and that the talents of the original poster are not the best match for the growing highly dynamic future of LANL. We wish the orginal poster all the best in his/her/it's future endeavor. The change in the workforce are a sign that we are on the right track and LANL has a
bright future serving this great nation of ours.

I would also like to remind everyone that as July approaches that "don't slip wear the shoes that grip".

Anonymous said...

Golf clap for 8:52.

Anonymous said...

Oh, thanks for the hard work. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out!

Anonymous said...

Doug-
I agree with most of what has been posted in this thread. However, as much as I admire Brad for standing up to Nanos in a public forum, he was not the first to do so. That honor goes to the individual who stood up to Nanos during his "CREM" all hands meetoing. As I recall (and it is all on tape should I miss some details), the individual stood up after Nanos' butthead comments and said, "You know, we've been talking about this [CREM issue], and, we (scientists) don't believe you (Nanos)." At which point, Nanos pasted the poor guy boot-recruit style. The lesson was loud and clear. Don't disagree with the boss, even when he is dead wrong, or you'll be publicly flogged. Sadly, that pathetic approach continues today at LANL and is encouraged by LANS. It truly stems from a lack of leadership (ability) at the most fundamental level.

It is rare that a subordinate or even a group of subordinates can directly impact or improve the integrity and leadership skills of a "superior". So long as NNSA, the American public, Congress, et al. are happy with LANS, Nanos, Tom D. etc., we scientists will get more of the same shameful treatment.

Like the original doubter, I "don't [and didn't] believe" them either. Also like the original doubter, I am faced with two options. Stay and accept a daily flogging in a thousand different ways, or leave. The option of expecting real change at the top seems particularly distant.

It seems the OP has come to a similar realization. I applaud him and wish him the best possible future. The rest of us are left weakened from the loss - both as Americans, and as scientists defending the institution.

Anonymous said...

As I clearly stated in my last All-Hands meeting, it's good that our bright scientists are leaving this lab. Think of all the great academic connections and funding they'll funnel back into LANL!

Besides, this latest exodus of talent will result in one less cubicle I'll have to get installed into my new Science Complex building. It will also help me and Mikey achieve our bonus for meeting NNSA's request of a 5% attrition rate.

- TERRY

Anonymous said...

Anyone noticed how desktop computing services is now scrubbing workers property lists, for computers over ~5 years old, and sending them a note asking for justification to keep these 'ancient' machines? Apparently they're flashing a large bankroll to buy new 'puters for everyone - all under the guise that the newer platforms are easier to defend from evil-dooers.

Someone tried to recycle an older computer from ASM-PM, only to find laptops are destroyed now. Instead of sanitize, they are being lobotomized - hard drive ripped out. Guess what the answer is? Go to the only source for Dell allowed now, TIG, who just won a $94M 4 year exclusive contract with LANS.Instead of a sub-$1K laptop that can be found on the streets, the minimum you can buy is about twice as expensive, with Vista ripped out, the microphone, camera, bluetooth, WIFI all removed. And... they are out of stock.

Do you smell something rotten? What has LANS got going with the new subcontracts that stand out as odd coincidences? Privatization is such a great business opportunity. Sad way to run a lab, though.

Anonymous said...

"But the bigger problem to me is that LANS management just doesn't care. They don't care about getting science done or recruiting and retaining the best of the best. The only thing they care about are their bonuses and it doesn't matter to them who they step on or what science they crush along the way. Make no mistake, fellow bloggers. THEY DO NOT CARE." (COW)

BINGO!!! Give this man a prize. He finally figured it out and took some rational action to better his present situation.

He is right: In the end, you will discover... they do not care.

This is the central issue that is helping to totally destroy what little science is left at LANL. It's also one of the few issues that has been overlooked in the latest round of official reports detailing the death of the NNSA research labs. It's politically incorrect to point this issue out in official reports, but never the less, it is true.

The for-profit LLCs placed in charge of the NNSA labs do not care about anything other than the trivia contained in their PBIs. And what's one of the latest requests coming down from NNSA? Getting rid of staff through attrition so they don't have to pay out any severance. LANS is eager to see people leave.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all those multi-millions in overhead dollars you brought in to help pay for my bloated management, Mr. COW.

I guess with your leaving, we'll need to ratchet up the overhead rates a bit higher. Hmm, I think I'll inform the remaining research staff to pad their new proposals with a 20% cost increase to cover for this next year's overhead rate. That should help put the squeeze on and get more of them out of here!

(Mikey)

John said...

Sorry to see you go. Good luck to you. Sadly the lab needs people like you. Even sadder is that management doesn't appear to recognize it. In the past three years, I've seen management do nothing to indicate that it cares about employees nor do anything towards creating a productive work environment.

So I understand your choice but it leaves the rest of us that much poorer and makes the lab that much more unattractive. Every time someone like you leaves, it gets harder and harder to replace you.

Anonymous said...

In many cases, I think management does care up to about the Division Head level. After that, the 'caring factor' quickly decays as you move up the LANS management ladder. By the time you get to the Director's office, it's nothing but a big, stinking pile of freshly expelled BS.

Unfortunately, the power positions at LANL have shifted away from the Division Head level as LANS has added ever increasing amounts of new executive management at the very top. Just this last week, in fact, an new Directorate was created called 'Global Security' with a new PAD and associated set of new ADs (with their required large support staff, of course). Figure on this new Directorate adding even higher amounts of overhead to the LANL cost of doing business. As far as seeing this new 'Global Security' Directorate bringing in lots of new business to help cover for the declining budgets at LANL... I wouldn't count on it.

Anonymous said...

These LANS managers are fine managers except for their inability to motivate their subordinates.

MIKEY

Anonymous said...

one anon person "says" he's quit & some here treat it like a groundswell.

It's more like grasping at straws.

Anonymous said...

Publicly criticizing an employer, past or present, falls in the category of "making enemies without a purpose." It really does little if anything to effect change and may unnessarily piss people off.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mikey, this will indeed affect your bonus. Getting rid of these kind of malcontents helps fulfill the PBI of cutting LANL staff by 5%.

Anonymous said...

5:52,

I agree.

and remember

'Revenge is best served cold.'

Doug Roberts said...

5:52,

There are exceptions to every rule. In our case, LANL management has been sufficiently public in their demonstrations of incompetence that criticism of the institution is not only accepted, it is almost respected. It is certainly expected.

Say that three times fast.

The point being that LANL now has a fully established, well earned reputation for being a poorly run institution. Former Director Sig Hecker likens the current LANL to a prison. An individual such as the original poster who aims a spot-on, well-written criticism towards LANL is going to do his career no harm.

Anonymous said...

It's just a matter of time before we see the "Great Exodus" from LANL. With the current managment and the up-coming "Budgets" my guess is we will start to see this beganning in a few months and last for about 3-4 years or until we get steady funding. And by the way not everyone who exists, announces it on the blog. 5% reduction in FTE's in 2009, followed by a 7-8% in 2010, then ???

Anonymous said...

Having recently quit LLNL after 30 years, I resonate with the OP.

However, I would not say senior managers do not care. It is just that what they care about has been significantly distorted by the new contracts with their for-profit partners. The mind-set of for-profits together with contract incentives is our demise.

The government has made a huge mistake (scientifically and financially) with LANL & LLNL. At least at PNNL, the government pulled back from the continued contract recompete insanity.

Anonymous said...

If this poor, mis-guided TSM had only worn shoes with proper GRIP, I'm sure he would have developed a completely different outlook on the current situation at LANL.

Let this be a lesson to the rest of you. Check your foot wear closely each day before arriving at LANL.

Don't lose your GRIP like this unfortunate lad. It's too late for him, but there is time to correct things for the rest of you who remain at LANL. Proper foot wear is Job #1 at the new and improved LANL. See to it!

Anonymous said...

9:41's mention of the Crem Guy standing up to Nanos brought back memories...

The guy who really first stood up to Nanos is John Horne. Nanos was there that day at R-40, like a Baptist minister, preaching fire and brimstone, wearing his ridiculous cowboy hat. We were gonna stop sinning or suffer the fires of hell. The saintly staff were down front doing the amen chorus, hands lifted, begging for forgiveness and to be there when the Lord calls His scientists home to that Glorious Firing Site in the Sky. I was sitting in the back, head down, praying for some Divine Guidance to show the way of repentance for missing files, all the while checking to see if the guard on the back door was attentive. Suddenly, the clouds of truth part, and a bald young technician stands up, and without even a stammer, and with the mildest of words, points out the Nanos fallacies and overturns the tables of the science changers. Nanos recoiled as if a snake had reared its ugly head. Who would dare speak out against the Great Nanos? This marked the beginning of the end of the Blowing Shit up and Collecting Data R-Site Team.

And it came to pass, John Horne was banished from the Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

"This marked the beginning of the end of the Blowing Shit up and Collecting Data R-Site Team." - 3:50 PM

Yeah, I had almost forgotten. We don't blow shit up any more at LANL, do we? We make a few pits each year and do some meaningless stockpile milestones and that's about it. It's all that is required by NNSA. Oh... and environmental cleanup. Can't forget that one. We do lots of environmental cleanup.

The science is all drifting off to other places as LANS' bloated management style and risk adverse culture makes it way too expensive to do research at LANL. The shut down crew has arrived. The COW poster was exactly right.

Doug Roberts said...

3:50,

I remember that. I didn't get to meet John Horne until about 6 six months after the shutdown, but I remember the meeting you describe where Nanos met with the DX people. Everybody was talking about it -- the ridiculous cowboy hat was over the top.

Good description of the events as they happened that day. Narcissists don't take well to being contradicted.

Anonymous said...

There will be huge exodus- 50% of the lab is currently over 50 years old. That's about 4000 people gone within the next 10 years.

Anonymous said...

have you all forgotten that the miracle of marie is going to save the lab?

Anonymous said...

have you all forgotten that the miracle of marie is going to save the lab?

6/19/09 10:54 PM

No, it won't. That MaRIE, I hear that she is nothing but a whore.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 6/18/09 10:37 PM writes about what is being done about older computers. There was a time when LANL donated the older computers, printers, plotters, etc., to local schools.

Now that program has ended.
Somehow I suspect that there is a
PBI for doing so.

Anonymous said...

With LANL employment down by over 2000, the great exodus is already well underway. We all know respected staff members that have left in the last two years.

Anonymous said...

question: does anyone know if there's a PBI for science at LANL? if so, is one of the metrics the number of publications a staff member or group receives? thanks.

Anonymous said...

The situation is epitomized by a new, just released requirement, that everyone take a 75 minute training session on sexual harassment. 10 years ago I had a group leader who solved this (and other harassment issues) very quickly. Very simply, he stated at a group meeting that "if you do anything to make someone else feel uncomfortable, you are guilty of harassment, and I will deal with you".

Multiply 1.25 hours times 10,000 or so employees, and estimate the cost for yourself!

Anonymous said...

But...but, we're the best and brightest!!

Anonymous said...

"But...but, we're the best and brightest!!

6/20/09 9:26 AM"

But... you are in idiot!!

Anonymous said...

And with that, we begin to understand why LANL is being phased out.

Anonymous said...

"There will be huge exodus- 50% of the lab is currently over 50 years old. That's about 4000 people gone within the next 10 years." - 9:31 PM

Excellent! This is, indeed, good news. Perhaps we can speed it along by lowering the staff morale, cutting benefits and executing more firings for various minor infractions.

NNSA wants to see 5% attrition, but this is LANS we are talking about. We need to aim higher. I think we should give it our 110% effort and aim for 6% attrition this next year.

Are LANL employees all on boards for this effort? The COW poster certainly was. Can I count on the rest of you? Yes? I knew I could! Bravo!

- MIKEY

Anonymous said...

6/20/09 9:10 AM asked ..question:

does anyone know if there's a PBI for science at LANL?

Yes, Terry getting rid of science, making the FNs feel like communist trash, and installing a policy of "I am happy when good scientists leave"

if so, is one of the metrics the number of publications a staff member or group receives?

Nope, they don't give a shit. Friends and family plan is still the rule.

Thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

No, it won't. That MaRIE, I hear that she is nothing but a whore.

6/20/09 12:36 AM


Nope, the whore is John Sarrao who is busy managing up and making sure he personally kills any good BES efforts under his watch. Except for emergent phenomenon where he still gets his names on publications for funneling money to Bauer and Ronning (former PDs of his ...)

Anonymous said...

The language used to describe this place is significant. At one time, we were, "the finest scientific lab on the planet", then one day, our ambition changed to, "one of the finest". Now, it seems that, "shoes that grip" is our ambition. It is sad to watch.

Anonymous said...

Sad isn't the word. Try pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Now, it seems that, "shoes that grip" is our ambition. It is sad to watch.

6/21/09 9:19 AM

Give it another year and "Shoes that GRIP" will look like a brilliant motto for LANL. The trend is downward, ever downward. And, yes, it is very sad to watch.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Terry getting rid of science, making the FNs feel like communist trash, and installing a policy of "I am happy when good scientists leave" (6:20 PM)


If Terry Wallace feels it's a good thing that scientists are leaving LANL, then might I suggest what's good for the goose is also good for the gander.

Perhaps Terry should take a job as a curator at one of the rock museum out West. I think Dr. Wallace's talents might best be served as curator at one of the cheesy "tourist trap" rock museum/shops that litter the highways.

Anonymous said...

"This marked the beginning of the end of the Blowing Shit up and Collecting Data R-Site Team."
-6/19/09 3:50pm

And a good team it was at R-Site. Just names washing off down the canyons toward the Rio Grande now. Names like… Boettner and Christian. George and Greene. London and Ledbetter. Adair and Elliott. Martinez and Reese. Weeds are reclaiming the firing sites now. The Indian ruins are peaceful again. The current regime will cast more names about the mesas for the trip to the Cochiti burial grounds until no one is left.

Anonymous said...

Evidently ADTR is in trouble. Heard that IAT's Mullen wrote a two page memo justifying her treatment of staff for their inattention to safety details. Anyone have a copy?

Anonymous said...

6/21/09 9:00 PM - Seestrom can top this by forcing her people who are public relations safety problems to charge their T&E to their sick and vacation time. No retaliation there just a learning lesson.

Anonymous said...

"Heard that IAT's Mullen wrote a two page memo justifying her treatment of staff for their inattention to safety details." (9:00 PM)

The beatings will continue until...no one cares any longer and those who do still care have all left LANL. Are we getting close?

Anonymous said...

Oops, another LANL employee is headed out the door according to this local Florida paper. I'm baffled as to why LANS needs an ethics manager when the company appears to have no ethics?

http://www.keysnet.com/news/story/113731.html

Here are the CFO applicants (The Reporter - Marathon, Florida)

June 20, 2009 05:29 PM EDT

A headhunting firm hired by the Monroe County School District has received 18 applications so far from people interested in taking the job of district internal auditor, or chief financial officer.

The applicants:

...Stacey Chados, Los Alamos, N.M., ethics manager for Los Alamos National Security...

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see. Ethics and Finances are supposed to be connected?