Friday, April 01, 2005

To an outsider reading this blog,

From Anonymous:

To an outsider reading this blog, several things jump out:

1) Lots of worries and comments about the pension plans, lots of
complaining about the managmenent, but little or no worries about
being able to do good research. To an outsider this doesn't sound
like a top level research institution -- sounds more like a
government agency. But perhaps the real scientists are off doing
their work and not posting to the blog....

2) Lots of arrognace, including even some arrogant comments about
being arrogant. Lots of outrage about why the outside world thinks

Los Alamos is arrogant, some of it even arrogantly stated....

3) A kind of naivete about the real world -- as if companies making

money (for their stockholders, some of whom are the pension plans)
is an evil thing or managing for efficiency is unamarican or having

to adjust to benefits at about the level of the rest of the country

is unthinkable ....

Seems to me the folks who are mostly worried about their pensions
ought to just go ahead and retire so the lab can restock with
people who care more about doing good research....





Comments:
Thank You. Well stated.

I'm considered a nanite and troller since I agree that many people at this institution are so narrow minded when the world around them is significantly changing.

The arrogance and entitlement mentality is what will bring this institution down.

Troller extrodinare
 
I want to add my voice to what 5:56 said: well stated.

--Doug
 
I don't believe that arrogance per se is the force that is bringing this institution down. Arrogance might the lens we use to evaluate the reality we see and unfortunately the bullhorn we use to proclaim it. However, the forces bringing this institution are many. They include a strange conjunction of political opportunism, a blind denial of the ominous threats we face as a nation, a overt and covert opposition to things nuclear, a bureaucratic overseer that refuses to accept its own responsibilities, and a senior management that has shown a callous and abusive abandonment of its employees and of its fiduciary responsibilities to the American taxpayer.

For the outside reader, please know that ultimately this battle is for you and your children. If we fail, the ominous world we face together will be our common fate. I apologize if we seem arrogant and unfocused. We are a bit new in expressing ourselves in this forum.
 
One has to keep in mind that many at LANL came here directly from graduate school and have never worked anywhere else. They have no clue what it's like in the "real world", and usually have a highly inflated view of their own marketability outside of LANL.
 
Please don't underestimate Los Alamos employees as to their eruditeness, societal accomplishments, general awareness, world travel, and thirst for knowledge on just about ever topic imaginable. I believe they might know more about what is going on in the world around them than most people in that world. They are not escapees from graduate school that metamorphed into "childlike scientists" as one of the cable networks described them and the 7:29 PM posting seemed to imply.
 
8:48 --

Maybe not, but I grew up in Los Alamos, moved away, traveled around the world, and then came back. In retrospect, Los Alamos _is_ more insular than most other places I've been. "Out of touch with the _real_ world" is one apt description of many Los Alamosans.
 
There are many scientists here are definately well travelled and aware of how the world is changing around them. However there are a very vocal group (I dont know if they are the majority..) who are quite insular about the world. It permeates the town , it permeates the lab, and it frankly turns off a lot of visitors.

I dont know what it is.. its like the town slows down time. Business and sometimes scientific models from the 1970's get looked at like they are cutting edge. You try to get a pre-built product for a project, and instead you have the group decide they need to reinvent it because some scientist thinks he can improve it. Of course that puts the project back 9-12 months and you end up buying the original product because the scientist's is 10x more expensive for a 1-5% improvement.

Or you have a scientist who comes up with a really cool idea, but cant get any support on trying to make it a product because scientists dont do business.. they are supposed to stay in their labs and write papers that no one reads (as one T div group leader told us.)

Oh well 90 days and counting.
 
There is really no arrogrance at Los
Alamos. In fact most of the Ph.d's here can get jobs elewhere. There are some staff who have NIH funding essentially for life. Make no mistake they can get really great jobs elswhere if they want and they may want to soon. In my division almost everyone had a faculty offer elswhere. In addition every year there are a number of postdocs who would want to stay but cannot due to the selectivity of the the division.
In general they all go on the faculty positions. Also there are
a large number of international members in my division who all can get a faculty positions in their
home countries. I am also well connected to the so called real world. Most people at Los Alamos can
do just fine if not better. All
the good people will leave and what will you be left with? As for the
entitlement. We are not a company
nor should we be. Many people chose not to get faculty positions, high paying industry jobs or for that matter go into law or get a MD. Instead they chose to pursue
science. The hardest degree to get is a Ph.d in physics. If things continue the way the are then the
good people will indeed be leaving.
Just today I heard about another one of our top people leaning very
strongly toward an outside offer.
It will be a great shame if we lose
him. This is just to put you on notice that the best can leave and
will. It is a free market.
 
Dear Anonymous Outsider,

Thank you for your interesting comments. It would greatly help those of us at LANL whom you are attempting to deride as "not real scientists" if you could reveal some more information about yourself. Are you coming from an academic, industrial, or government background? Do you work for an organization full of Real scientists who don't care about whether they have a retirement plan or not? Are you yourself willing to donate your own retirement funds to your organization, as a way to be closer to the Real World? Given that tens of millions of people in the Real World live without health insurance, are you also willing to voluntarily decline health insurance coverage for you and your family?

More importantly, do you work for an organization where speaking out against obvious, gross mistakes by the management considered arrogant? Does your organization work on issues of National Security? If so, would your management consider it a good idea to force into retirement an entire generation of people who had first-hand experience with nuclear testing? What do you think such an action would do to the long-term security of this Nation?

Thank you very much in advance!
 
I do not think the intial post came from an outsider at all. Also to the
9:35pm poster. No T-divsion group
leader ever said anything like you
said. I do not believe you are a
TSM in T or ever were. By the way if you think LANL writes papers that no
reads why then is LANL ranked 11th
in the world and I believe 4th in the US for the number of citations? Well people are indeed reading our papers and big time. Why do you think so many people in LANL get faculty offers and the UC wants to keep the contract? By the way, you gave yourself away that you
are not a TSM when you said T-divsion people stay in their
labs. T-division does not have labs.
 
Los Alamos employees are, indeed, naive not to have seen this reduction in benefits coming. It has been happening to the rest of the country rapidly over the last few years. There is nowhere to hide from the corporatization of everything these days.
Few people enjoy having their benefits limited so some corporation can be more efficient. It isn't that Los Alamos people are wrong to object to being reduced to the level of the rest of the country, it is the rest of the country that should be standing with Los Alamos in demanding that our country be run for the good of its citizens, not the good of some mindless, soulless corporation.
Los Alamos employees may be arrogant -- and I know some of them are-- but they have every reason in the world to object to being treated like numbers rather than people. To bad most Americans don't object as well.
The University of California has done a lousy job of managing Los Alamos, but the corporations which have poured money into the pockets of people like Hobson, and Barton aren't helping those who work for them or science. Politicians like Hobson and Barton come to Los Alamos, and other places, and make giant tempests in tiny teapots -- such as the two not-really-lost hard disks or the not-really-lost hard drives in X-4, or the not-a-spy Chinese scientist. Why do we allow a couple of corporate stooges to run our lives? Why can't we stand up for better for ourselves, the US and for science?
Frankly not one of the companies that is trying to take over LANL management would be an improvement for the employees of the Lab or for the citizens of the US. Corporations are not the best way to do research.
Los Alamos employees are now getting a taste of what the rest of the country has been going through for the last 10 years. It is unfortunate for them and for others who have had to go down the same path. Yet, while we allow it, it will happen. I find myself envying the new democracies emerging in the Ukraine and other places, where citizens have stood up and said, "enough" to corporate greed.
The US and the world are currently being eaten by corporations which benefit a few top managers and not many others, including their shareholders. Every day we hear of another coporation that has had "accounting problems" which means their books have been cooked by a bunch of corporate thugs who will spend 6 months in jail and keep millions of dollars stolen from the public.
What kind of sense does it make to spend 100 million to have a corporation run a place that used to be managed for 12.5 million? It makes a lot of sense for the corportion, but not for the people who work for it or for the American taxpayers. If Hobson and Barton and the like would get off their high horses and think about American citizens, not coporations which have no allegences to anything but the bottom line, the whole country would be better off.
Americans worship corporations as gods, and that is a serious problem for the whole country these days. We will continue to decline until we learn to use corporations as tools and not as gods.
 
To 11:42 pm: Nice catch! Anybody who says there are "labs" in T-division is certainly not a scientist here, or anywhere else for that matter! He may be a Washington paper-pusher, or just a 12-year-old kid with a computer somewhere. Actually, come to think of it, the two would have similar IQs and it would be pretty challenging to tell them apart!
 
Starting to be some good comments on this thread. Finally. But there's a long way to go before you've got a coherent, problem-solving approach.

the forces bringing this institution are many. They include a strange conjunction of political opportunism, a blind denial of the ominous threats we face as a nation, a overt and covert opposition to things nuclear, a bureaucratic overseer that refuses to accept its own responsibilities, and a senior management that has shown a callous and abusive abandonment of its employees and of its fiduciary responsibilities to the American taxpayer.

its like the town slows down time. Business and sometimes scientific models from the 1970's get looked at like they are cutting edge. You try to get a pre-built product for a project, and instead you have the group decide they need to reinvent it because some scientist thinks he can improve it. Of course that puts the project back 9-12 months and you end up buying the original product because the scientist's is 10x more expensive for a 1-5% improvement.

And these are the same people who will deride the rest of the world for using something that is easy and cheap, and perhaps only 98% effective. Like the hanging-on to Macs and the preference for Firefox. There is a value in being compatible with the rest of the world that they ignore.

Some arrogance in this thread, too, although less than in some. That's progress.

To the 11:25 pm poster: People with unique experience have been leaving Los Alamos for a very long time now, with little concern for the loss of that experience on the part of the Lab. This has been independent of director. We might consider hands-on plutonium work, for just one example. Rediscovering things has been a way of life at the Lab, usually unknowingly. So will it be with nuclear testing.

The University of California has done a lousy job of managing Los Alamos, but the corporations which have poured money into the pockets of people like Hobson, and Barton aren't helping those who work for them or science. Politicians like Hobson and Barton come to Los Alamos, and other places, and make giant tempests in tiny teapots -- such as the two not-really-lost hard disks or the not-really-lost hard drives in X-4, or the not-a-spy Chinese scientist. Why do we allow a couple of corporate stooges to run our lives? Why can't we stand up for better for ourselves, the US and for science?
Frankly not one of the companies that is trying to take over LANL management would be an improvement for the employees of the Lab or for the citizens of the US. Corporations are not the best way to do research.


Mmn-hmn. Nor to be the directors of research and development of nuclear weapons, eh? Oh, I forgot: the current political doctrine is that nuclear weapons are just big firecrackers, like any other weapons. Look at the mushing-together of "WMD."

How do nuclear weapons fit the bigger picture? What then is the role of Los Alamos? Corporations?

Many of the scientists of the Manhattan Project chose to be politically active with respect to nuclear weapons. They provided valuable input to the political process. However, as Oppenheimer learned, this was not without risk. If you want to make a difference at Los Alamos, you may have to take some risks.
 
We do care about science- that is why we are at LANL and not making cars in Detroit. However- no one, not even NNSA, is suggesting a new mission. Therefore the posts to this blog are mostly about people's frustrations at what they perceive is getting in the way of that mission (and their mental health).
1. Punishing autocratic management with virtually no support base.
2. Layers of bureaucracy of questionable value.
3. The LANL standdown- which took on a life of its own.
4. A seamless transition of the work force, i.e. employees keep the same job in the same organization.
5. Threats to the (previously earned) pension.
6. Threats to anyone who expresses dissent.
7. ‘Heads will roll’ philosophy rather than ‘the buck stops here’.
8. Threats to LANL future, through a contract that gives little reason to the next generation of scientists to be here.
For example, NNSA is not threatening salaries, so almost no salary complaints are voiced.

It is basic human nature, people don’t like change- especially change that is long and drawn out. Two years of uncertainty will kill almost any organization. People can’t plan ahead- they spend valuable energy seeking information and/or complaining. People even get petty and argumentative. That is what you are seeing here.

When NNSA publishes the final RFP- people will make their choices to stay or go. The new contract will take effect (hopefully quickly) and employees who stay will get back to science. The new contract is for 7 years – so it should bring some stability. It is best if this changeover process doesn’t take any longer than absolutely necessary.
 
To comments above about corporate greed: The decline of our country is due partially to the outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing to cheap overseas resources. For instance, it puzzles me about Mr. Dell? Dell PCs made in China with technical support located in India. Now as most know, Dell PCs are pretty much the only source for PC-desktop computational equipment available through federal gov't procurement.
What ever happened to the "buy American" clauses in federal acquisition and procurement. Maybe LANL should be transferred to China with technical support moved to India.
 
Great idea! We can outsource our nuclear testing to countries still willing to do it.
 
Not a bad concept. Pakistan can build our pits and do our testing. We can paradrop Nanos into Iran to help manage that nation's nuclear weapons program and our National Security will improve significantly on both side of the ocean. We can watch North Korea do our criticality safety tests even though that might not have been their original intent. This latter move will give Senator Domenici a reason to have DOE/NNSA transferred to Pyongyang where like Byzanthine intrigue and management practices are employed. India can run our computer simulations and the Chinese can do our high explosive shots since they invented fire crackers. This plan is beginning to have merit.
 
To clarify.. since I posted rather angry at people who seem too full of themselves

The T group leader was making a comment about the lab in general. It was a lunch talk and may have been meant in humour but was taken rather seriously by the GRA's that I was one of. It was in 1994 during I think the RIF, and the general tone of the talks were "We suck, and dont come here." It hasnt seemed to change in 10 years.

The various rooms filled with computers that Mike Warren and such do their supercomputer simulations were presented as Labs. They may not be officially, but the presentation needs to be changed.
 
Buy American sadly died quietly about 10-15 years ago. There was a public mourning period in various textile and chemical plants that closed down as they were shipped to China. However most Americans seem to have fallen for the 'cheap' trinkets trick that got the Dutch Manhatten. Try buying something American made these days? Not assembled in America.. but completely produced in this country. It is very very hard to do.

The country does not seem to manufacture anything anymore... we want cheap stuff from countries with slave labour. And in the end, it will come and bite us in the rear like it has every empire since the Sumerians. We wont really raise a fuss over North Korea or Taiwan because it would mean 80%-160% inflation if China cut off its products (try to find something not made in China these days...).

Heck we have done the same thing with Saudia Arabia and Iran because we have leashed ourselves to the culture of the biggest SuV and Truck. We are a paper tiger.. all talk and a lot of people have matches that we are afraid will burn us.
 
Made in China. What ever happened to NAFTA?
 
To 8:48, 8:55, and 9:35: I posted this on an earlier thread, and it seems appropriate here:

When I came to LANL in the late 80's, there was a saying at LANL, "The last one in please shut the door behind them..." which was a way of saying that this was a great place to live and work for the rest of one's career. I also thought when I arrived here that the place had a quaint "back to the future" feeling of being stuck in a time-warp from the 1950's. Our stability and isolation has both served us well to preserve our technical and innovative strengths to serve the nation but also has been an achilles heel with regard to the crises of the last year. I spent most of 2004 on an extended assignment for the DOD and came back to LANL not only feeling like Rip Van Winkle but also like a midwestern college student that spent a year abroad in Europe. National Security organizations in the outside world, including government, military, industry, and other FFRDCs are going through constant turmoil that we have been mostly immune from. Has anybody lifted their eyes from the local turmoil to catch the chaos surrounding the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Darleen Druyan?? (see http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1104/113004g1.htm). Two years before landing in jail (for giving BIG sweetheart deals to Boeing while in the Air Force and then taking a high profile Boeing executive job upon retireing) she said in a speech before the Aerospace Corp (the FFRDC that supports the Air Force in all space program project matters) that Aerospace would be terminated because prime contractors could do all that honest broker work for the government. On another front, how many people heard a peep when TRW was bought by Northrup Grumman in terms of maintaining important capabilities for the Nation??? Did anyone care about TRW worker's pensions? Comments on this blog tend to go to extremes between indignant self righteousness and "blame the victim". The truth is probably a very complicated mix of the two. However, our rhetoric should be communicated to the outside about how the critical value we bring to the nation is being destroyed by the current crises, not on how unfairly we are being treated as a point unto itself. Given what the outside world puts up with, we will be perceived as crybabies.
 
Why would there be a perception problem with the outside world? You are crybabies and are perceived as such.
 
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