[nSLUG] Career Change - Part 4

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Sun Dec 2 14:23:37 AST 2012

On Sat, Dec 1, 2012 at 11:42 AM, Daniel MacKay <daniel at bonmot.ca> wrote:

The result: it's too early to draw any conclusions, but I like it!  I was
> imagining renewable energy to be a lot about electrical and plumbing, and
> was not prepared for the amount of time I'd be spending on ladders and
> roofs but, after a couple of days and a Fall Arrest Course, I was
> comfortable working up there.

Glad to hear you found a job you enjoy, and I enjoyed reading about your

I belong to the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.   A number
of years ago someone noted that the membership was changing from mostly
university and research lab types to include people whose primary role is
defined less by publications/reports and more by the things they help
produce.   Examples involved programming robots and statistical quality
control in process management.   One view was that microprocessors make it
possible to do more complex calculations closer to the point of
application.  Organizations that recognized the value of moving the
calculations out of the mainframe but keeping
people who developed the methods involved gained an advantage.

I'm slowly acclimatizing to the brutally early mornings.  I was
> unaccustomed to being at work before the crack of noon, and my bosses like
> to be at the job site around 9 so that means being in my tradesman's truck
> an hour before.

Desks generally don't have to change locations every few days.   For many,
driving time is a big part of the day.

As an undergraduate I worked summers for the New Mexico State environmental
agency (the main highway was Route 66 and the cold war was looking warm to
those of us with low draft numbers).  My main job involved plume dispersion
models (using a Wang electronic calculator), but collecting data required
driving to the sites and then sampling from ladders and roofs or platforms
on stacks.   There were a couple airborne sampling systems but I was too
low on the food chain to get a ride on one of those.  One was a converted
jet bomber whose main role was  to check for radioactive releases anywhere
in the world (so needed room for multiple air crews, sleeping
accommodations, in-flight refuelling capabilities, and 7x24 readiness).
The plane flew regularly, mainly for routine chemical/aerosol sampling to
keep the crew sharp and the instruments warm).  The problem was that you
didn't want to give advanced notice when heading out to sample a suspected
violator, but a big jet screaming down the smoke plume in the cold war era
tended to result in massive panic with people streaming out every door of
the plant and running for the hills  (and this being the USA, it wouldn't
have surprised me to hear that some them started shooting).  Even when head
office was notified of a routine training overflight, it took a couple
visits before head office caught on to the idea that they really should let
staff know that they weren't under attack.  Part of my job was to go out
with a crew in a pickup pulling a travel trailer converted to a lab to do
"ground truth" for overflights.  This usually meant leaving at 4am to get
to the site and level the lab trailer while the guys in the planes could
sleep in.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia
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