First, Alan was up in the middle of the night with an earache. It turned out to be no big deal, but it did keep both of us awake. I was having a bad night already, thinking about stuff (see below); I did eventually get some sleep, but Claude got almost none.
Second, I'm starting to break the news about no follow-on projects to the staff, one at a time. This gets a little tricky. We have people who will certainly land on their feet and find other jobs that are just as good or better. But we also have people who've come to rely on this project, and who will struggle to find new positions -- not so much because they aren't competent (everyone at the project is competent; most are good, several are excellent), but because it's just hard to get out there and look for a job in Armenia. It's not a big place, nor a rich one. So, instead of announcing this at the weekly staff meeting, I'm doing this one by one.
Second-sub-one, I'm trying to figure out how to bring our work to a reasonable stopping point in the absence of follow-on. Challenging.
Second-sub-two, you know how I found out there would be no follow-on projects? Caught the knowledgeable person at a social occasion with a few drinks under his belt. AID didn't feel a burning need to tell us about this officially. There is an attitude one encounters at AID sometimes, that contractors are all highly-paid experts who will somehow figure everything out. Not sure if that was at work here, but it's the least annoying explanation.
Third, we have a budgeting issue that is both arcane and deeply stupid and that's going to cause me a huge amount of headache over the next few days. Short version is, unless someone at AID sends us a short e-mail saying "your budget realignment request is approved", we have to act as if we're on last year's budget. Because we don't yet have formal approval to do Y instead of X. So if we do X, officially we're acting without authority and AID doesn't have to pay us for that work. (Note to lawyers: there is no quantum meruit in the AID world.) We're now seven weeks into the new fiscal year and AID hasn't gotten around to doing that yet.
Logically, it makes no sense that AID would allow us to work on Y for months and then sandbag us. Formally, though, we are now "exposed" for all the work we've done since October 1. The home office has decided that this is an unacceptable risk. So unless AID pulls its thumb out, we're going to stop doing Y and start doing X again -- even though doing X no longer makes sense.
Fourth, Claudia has been under the weather the last couple of days. Being up all night with a sick kid didn't help.
Fifth, my home office project manager just told me today that I have to do the invoice support document by tomorrow, because word has come down that all invoices have to be in early this month. That means I'm doing it at home, tonight, after everyone is asleep. It's only a couple of hours, but it's a really tedious couple of hours.
Sixth, the internet has been really unstable. "Unstable" doesn't cover it, really. It's just off about half the time, and half the remaining time it's so slow as to be useless. This is partly an Armenia-wide problem, but it's mostly our home DSL cable. Which the local phone company should fix, but won't. So, when I finish the invoice support document, I'll have to hang around waiting for a good connection. Which could be anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour or more.
Okay, this is turning into whining, which I hate. Mostly I like being a project manager just fine. There are just some days, is all.
On the plus side, I got half an hour this evening reading books and comic books to the boys. We have one book that's just a big collection of animal pictures, grouped by theme (hot climate, cold climate, big animals, things with stripes). We have a game where each boy picks an animal and I have to tell a story. David picked "owl" and I came up with a story for it right off. ("Once upon a time, there was a cat who wanted to fly...") Alan picked "killer whale", which was harder, but I managed. (Try coming up with a story about a killer whale that will satisfy a couple of picky little boys. You have thirty seconds and then they'll start to wiggle. Go on, try.) And then they both went to sleep without further fuss.
So, not an entirely bad day.