Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I was awake at 4:30 this morning, a good hour earlier than normal. Even worse, I woke up thinking about work. This is not good. One of the things I've liked about Large Nameless Agency has been the ability to leave the job behind each day when I walk out of the office. It's been extremely low stress compared to working for the National Park Service. I loved the NPS, but much as I loved the job and "my" parks in retrospect it wasn't so much that I had the job as the job had me.

I would think about my parks and the various projects they had in progress 24/7. I dreamt about my parks, I'd have trouble falling asleep and then wake up multiple times during the night, I thought about my parks when I was on vacation. Heck, it went beyond thinking about them -- I'd go out of my way to visit my parks when I was on vacation! I loved it, but, let's face it, it wasn't particularly stress-free, especially with the added factor of being a term rather than a permanent employee factored in. There was always the "if I start this, will I be able to finish it before my term ends?" in the back of my mind.

Large Nameless Agency, in contrast, until recently had days when it came close to being like a paid vacation. My primary responsibility was as an author's editor -- the last person to see a potential journal article before it gets submitted to scholarly journals like Annals of Microbiology or Journal of Medical Informatics. It's interesting work, and relatively important to the overall process, but by the time articles cross my desk they've already gone through multiple iterations with the co-authors (a typical scientific article will have half a dozen co-authors) and it's also gone through an internal to the agency peer review/clearance process. My job is basically to make sure no egregious grammatical errors have slipped by the numerous other people who looked at it, and that it's formatted in the submission style the journal demands. The job might get labeled "substantive edit," but the reality is it's generally more like a really thorough proofreading. Once in awhile there'll be a paper that's a challenge -- the journal will have set a maximum word count of 3000, and the paper is at 3500 so needs to be trimmed -- but overall it's one of those jobs where I could amble into the office, put in my 8 hours, learn some interesting stuff while doing so (e.g., while the overall rates of TB in the U.S. have been going down, the percentage of TB cases that are advanced TB is going up -- doctors are getting poorer at recognizing early stage TB because they aren't seeing enough of it to routinely consider it as a preliminary diagnosis, especially in supposedly low-risk populations)(highest risk for tb are prison guards and inmates), and amble out at the end of the day leaving it all mentally behind in the cubicle. In any case, I don't have any emotional investment in the work -- I didn't do the research, I wasn't actively involved in the hard part of the writing, my name isn't going on the piece, and once it leaves my desk I never have to think about it again. It's nice, compartmentalized work.

Occasionally I'd get to do some fun stuff, like write a short article for LNA's public web site, but that was basically the same thing: put in the 8 hours, go home, don't think about work again until turning on the computer the following day.

That has changed. The same detail that gave me the electronic tether and the bus commute now has me thinking about work when I'm not in the office. I am not a happy camper. Because, unlike NPS and the parks I loved (Buffalo River, Apostle Islands, Saint Croix, Niobrara. . . and numerous others), this detail is not much fun to think about. There are way too many people involved in trying to create this document, there's extremely poor internal communication (I'd love to know how anyone can expect different agencies to cooperate in implementing this strategy once it's written when we've got different divisions within LNA fighting some fairly vicious turf wars), and the cliched goalposts keep moving. I'll put in several days trying to re-work a section, format it, maybe even get to the point of selecting graphics because it's so close to done, and then get told we're back to the beginning on that particular piece. Very, very frustrating.

And now I'm dreaming about the document and waking up early. I repeat, this is not good. The ankle bracelet was bad, but manageable (I brilliantly figured out that if I never turned it on, I could pretend it didn't exist). Invading my dreams, though. . . that's crossing the line. I did not want to be invested in this project, but it appears it's happened anyway.

Update: On top of the dreaming about it, today was definitely a Harlan Ellison (I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream) sort of day that had me trapped in phone conferences that just went on and on and on in totally unproductive circles for 90 minutes past quitting time.

Although the plus side of that was I got to see U.S. marshals block off Buford Highway and haul some woman away in handcuffs when they stopped her truck by forcing her to t-bone one of those humongous black federal law enforcement SUVs. The front end of her truck was pretty well smooshed, and it didn't look like there was even a scratch on that federal tank. Had I been home at my usual time I would have missed seeing the multiple helicopters in the air, the whole herd of tv news satellite trucks, and the cautiously intrigued on-lookers. The oddest part of the news report is seeing this neighborhood described as "suburban." Well, I guess it is -- it DeKalb County, not Fulton, and downtown Atlanta must be, oh, a good 6 minute drive away.


  1. Ewwwww! I hate when that happens - the dreaming about work. Yuck, yuck and ick.

    Last night, I dreamed of Edward. Yes, him. Houston, I believe we have a problem.

    I'm sorry you're buggered by work. Work should NOT be allowed to invade sleep. Ever.

    This assignment has a shelf life, right? Oh, how I hope so.

  2. hopefully the job will be over soon and you can sleep walk your way to another job..or so you hope..
    i dream of smacking family dollar customers's unruly kids right up side the head..

  3. 94 days to go (it's a not-to-exceed Dec 14 detail), but who's counting?


My space, my rules: play nice and keep it on topic.