Posts Tagged ‘audit’

Ghost Writing

13 August 2010

Dear J-

The plane is headed west, which is great news for me, although they’re already talking about the next trip out (three weeks from now). This particular audit went well, I think; it was clear that they’d taken pains to read through the requirements of the ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code and had structured their program accordingly: it’s neither cheap nor easy to get certified by the Board, so my Mickey Mouse audit activities had roughly the same effect as whistling into the wind. Who am I to point out discrepancies and deficiencies; knowing how we are at work I sometimes feel like a giant hypocrite whenever I open my mouth on an audit.

I had trouble sleeping last night, whether it was the difficulty of being an auditor, the excitement of the last day, me actually choking on phlegm (or my mind thinking I was), or the plans for this last day. I kept waking up every couple of hours, checking the clock disgustedly and throwing myself back into bed (oh, and here’s a tip: Hilton is proud, in their Garden Inns, of their soft beds and pillows; by last night I felt like I was drowning in quicksand every time I laid myself out) until the too-early alarm intruded and showed me to today.

Afterward the audit exit meeting we went our separate ways — some of us heading back to California this afternoon, others traveling onwards to the next one, and still others not yet ready to travel — I don’t necessarily get it. The Southeast has been quite hospitable but the choice between one more night here and going home doesn’t even make me think twice.I had just enough time to make a side trip up to Kennesaw Mountain, which is a Civil War battlefield dating back to Sherman’s March-to-the-Sea. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’ve never been to a Civil War site before (I know, very lame for someone who’s interested in history, gravesites, and the military) but I found it oddly refreshing despite the triple-digit heat and mugginess. I’d go back, given more time and another chance; it’s places like that which shaped our nation. The battles around Kennesaw took place on days like today, where the humidity and heat take your breath away; I can only imagine what those young men felt in their hot woolen uniforms marching through the dappled woods.

It was a fitting capstone on this trip; if I was traveling with family I’m not sure we would have taken the time to head over there. At work we like to talk about lessons learned and operating experience, which can be summarized thus: smart people learn from their mistakes, but really smart people learn from other people’s mistakes. If I’m coming back in three weeks I’ll have a lot more stuff to bring (hard to believe — it boggles the mind — but that PE isn’t going anywhere at the moment and I still need to study) and a better base with which to attack the touristing issue. At one point — standing atop the mountain and looking at the haze wreathing modern downtown Atlanta — I realized that the trip was worth it (the whole week) for that one moment. The ghosts were whispering stories in my ear today, maybe all night last night and I’m glad we had a chance to meet; there are so many lessons, and I love to learn.

Mike

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Favorite Things

27 January 2010

Dear J-

Last year I went on an audit as part of the lead team; the industry joint audit group has certain roles and rules for the team, and the lead team has to provide a technical specialist who determines if the quality controls in place at the vendor are sufficient to produce a qualified product. The other folks on the team examine things like commercial programs, the controls they exert on subtier suppliers, and other such aspects. Funny thing is the way the nuclear industry works here: because of the limited number of suppliers and plants, you tend to get careerists whenever you interface with other utilities: the same faces, the same people, the same jobs.

For instance, on the audit I went on, three of the five people on the team had gone to visit this particular supplier more than once, and had nothing but bad things to say about him: how cantakerous, how unaccomodating, how difficult he was the last time, or the time before. In one of our pre-audit meetings they warned me to dress warmly as the office was nothing more than a converted storage unit, and how there were generally no amenities, such as actual chairs and desks. When we got there, though, I thought it was pretty impressive: essentially a one-man show, able to manage his chain of suppliers and supply the nuclear industry — who cares that everything was covered in dust and cobwebs.

Everyone has different viewpoints on the world; we might look at the same wall and perceive different shades of color, or walk out of the same movie (unless it’s Scent of Green Papaya — I think we walked out of that one thinking the same thing) with different opinions, and that’s what makes life interesting. Listening to the same thoughts over and over is like shouting in an echo chamber: you soon make yourself deaf and dazed. If we are the product of our experiences, there are few functions that give us such a broad base as experiencing many things.

Mike

Trip Done

25 March 2009

Dear J-

Back in San Diego; something — whether it’s the weather, relief, hugging figgy, or the two Tylenol — has finally erased the headache I woke up with this morning.  Of course, it didn’t help that I demonstrated that I could still stay up past midnight, given the right incentive (unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a category for marathon crap-sitcom watching; otherwise, I’m your man).  It’s just that sense of displacement again:  I woke up this morning driving a Mustang, and now I’m back at home just a few hours later, looking forward to resolving all the e-mail that must have piled up.

I did manage to feel at least reasonably technical during the audit; you spend enough time wrestling with the calculations and it starts to make sense.  Methodology, numbers … although to be honest, I’m not sure that I would have been able to come up with some of the same approaches to the calculation issues.  It’s interesting, though, that of the things I learned on the trip, the most important was learning about the supplier himself:  just one guy, with rented warehouse space, supplying to the nuclear industry; he’s responsible for design and program controls.  It can be done with one person.

hardy-valley-5060-sm

Last night I begged off going to PF Chang’s (the first time we went, I leaned over to theVet and stage whispered that it was just tarted-up American Chinese food) and went to my Aunt’s house instead.  Granted, what I had there wasn’t any more authentic (take-and-bake Philly Cheesesteak), but I’m finding that I’m turning into my parents:  I want to talk to adults and find out about the history of my family.  I didn’t know that we had twins in the family; I didn’t know how overlapped the generations have been (not just my dad growing up with his uncle, but also my aunt growing up alongside her nephew).  It’s a greedy feeling, getting to know more of your history:  suddenly the world starts to make more sense.

Mike

Bumbling and Brash

19 March 2009

Dear J-

Well, despite my best efforts at sheer incompetence and procrastination, it looks like I’m on my way to Sacramento early next week:  Monday through Wednesday will be spent auditing one of our vendors.  We haven’t been back often — I remember going back twice now, I think, since leaving in 2001 — but for only being a few hours away, it might as well be across the country (reminding myself, here, of how long it’s been since I was in a different time zone, nearly three years).

I like to talk about how small the world is but I know that’s true on paper; faced with the prospect of actually traveling distances — yes, it’s possible, and I can only point to how lazy I know I am.  The journey is not the reward.  When I’ve got nearly everything I need here — and it seems like the rest can be shipped in — it makes me perfectly happy to be stuck where I am.

I guess that the point is that I haven’t traveled enough to be truly well-seasoned at it; various maladies will assault me on the road, and I’ll probably spend half the first evening awake and staring, insensate at the TV regretting the meal that sounded good on the menu.  We’re not so well-traveled that we can claim favorite places in far-flung corners (I’m more familiar with Ryo’s Yokosuka and Kazuo’s Kabuki-cho than most of Sacramento, in fact), but there’s compensations on tap:  perhaps I’ll finally be able to get the right Yolo causeway picture that’s been haunting me for years.

Mike