Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Suddenly, it’s all become very clear

A comment from the


I’m a mid-career LANL TSM who just returned from a visit to a major university. Let me tell you, this visit was a powerful jolt. With all the crap we had taken here in the last several years, I had almost forgotted what the REAL WORLD was like. The REAL WORLD where people enjoy coming to work; where science, not mindless rules or management abuse, is the center of most conversations; where young people – students and postdocs – come to you to LEARN and both sides take profound satisfaction in sharing knowledge; where opinions are respected and freedom of thought and expression is unquestioned.

Suddenly, it’s all become very clear. I’ve had it with LANL. I’ve had it with Admirals shutting down my research at will and with his lackeys ready to report anyone who they catch writing formulas on a blackboard during the shutdown. I’ve had it with division leaders telling people their work by itself isn’t worth anything, unless it directly ties to the "Mission". I’ve had it with a bunch of clueless half-educated bureaucrats trying to impose the same computer standard on scientists and secretary.

When I came here, it was because there were good people to work with. Well, now that these very people are either retiring or taking up jobs elsewhere, what am I going to stay here for? Just so that I could continue living in a desolate place in the middle of nowhere, a place with a single grocery store and two dozen churches? A place with dirty, broken-down streets and a "downtown" made up of a post office and a Starbucks?

Call me a "whiner", a "cowboy", a "grouser". I don’t care. I don’t want to serve at the will of Admiral Foley anymore. I’m through. I’m applying for university jobs and within the next year or two I’m outta here!

I don't think you're a "whiner" or a "grouser" in the sense that you're saying all this just because you like to do it. It sounds as though you've gotten over the huge psychological hurdle a lot of folks at LANL have: that LANL is the only place they can work, and they won't ever be able to find work outside of LANL. So, they stay, even though more than a few are unhappy people as a result. I recall that the RIF in 1995 totally shook up the workforce even though only a few hundred people got pink slips out of 7500, and more than a few of these got their jobs back at LANL. Lots of people just couldn't believe thay could make a start elsewhere. If you do decide to quit, "for real", my advice is to look before you leap. I took what I initially thought was a dream job at the University of Texas in Austin some years ago. Turned out to be the worst job I ever had, even worse than what I experienced at LANL. I bailed out less than two years later, and am now much happier. And "no", I did not come back to LANL!
Certainly LANL working conditions have degraded enormously over the past decade, and it's a gamble to bet on a substantial recovery over the next decade. People who have alternatives should certainly consider them, and it's easier to uproot if your mindset has past the point of no return.

You are, however, being unfair to life in New Mexico. For many, the natural beauty, mild climate, and rural life is a major positive, perhaps as much or more of the initial decision to come to LANL as the workplace environment (and these same are willing to overlook the excessive number of churches per capita in Los Alamos proper, or choose instead to live in the valley). Please don't let terminal frustration with LANL diminish as well your memories of life in NM.
I think much of the rationale for staying with LANL is that by being somewhat remotely located in an organization that doesn't mirror much of the private sector, one may feel slightly out of touch with the marketplace where the next opportunity may be waiting. Change is stressful whether it's 'change in place' or 'change to new locale'.

Also, many people who have purchased homes could potentially have a long wait or a financial loss in trying to sell their Los Alamos home in a declining market. Unless you can afford the loss or negotiate well enough to offset the loss, it does become a major component in the equation.

Others may have family circumstances (health issues, custody issues) which complicate trying to weigh options and which can stall or impede any decisions toward leaving LANL.

It's obviously not just the job situation but the whole picture of life that can add to the stress of trying to make a decision that one can live with.
Certainly the environment is one of the attractions of Los Alamos. It is the only place on the planet that combines high technology with the great outdoors. I guess I don't get the issue supposedly with an excessive number of churches. One doesn't have to attend them. The reverse would be a bigger problem.
Working conditions have changed a lot at the Lab, but they've changed other places, too, so if you change jobs pay attention to what you are getting into.
To the original poster:

When we moved here in 1968, the downtown was much different. We purchased appliances from the local Sears or Montgomery Wards catalog store. There was a lovely bakery where families would congregate on Saturday morning before taking their small children to the library on Central. We could shop for odds and ends in a dimestore where the kids could get small toys. There were no fast food restaurants but there was Sparky's, Baskin Robbins, and a bowling alley all within walking distance of Central.

However, Los Alamos suffers from a shrinking business district because of internet, catalog, and out-of-town shopping, because LANL has moved more and more of its work across the bridge, and because of all the small companies that rent office space along Central and in other locations to support LANL. Now even SUP has moved downtown, various IM groups are located downtown, and landlords (all three of them) are delighted to rent to LANL because retail shops can't afford the same high rent.

Although the County Council wastes a great deal of time trying to figure out how to bring some life back to the business community, everyone is responsible for supporting our local merchants. Fourteen Los Alamos businesses closed in 2004. How many of those did you shop at?

Yes, in one part of town there are dirty, torn up roads, and I'm sure the folks who live along them are really tired of the dirt and noise. They are also still rebuilding from the fire and are probably tired of living in the shadows of the burned Jemez Mountains.

However, this is a community where children can play tag outside in the summer without parents fearing for them. It's a community where when something horrible happens, like Todd's death, folks rally around with food and financial support. And it's a community with a great environment. Last week, the sky was incredibly blue; and in the older neighborhoods large lilac bushes were in full bloom, and the fragrance was overpowering.

You are not a whiner, a grouser, or a cowboy. But when you are gone, your friends will miss you; and you might not miss LANL, but you will miss Los Alamos.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?