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November 19, 2007


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Will Baird

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. [...] We're now seven weeks into the new fiscal year and AID hasn't gotten around to doing that yet.


This is disturbingly familiar, Doug! Congress keeps frakkin with our budget with the continuing resolution bit. One, it screws raises. Two it screws purchases (they send us a check that is 1/12th our 2006 budget EACH MONTH. When paying for a $50 million computer, this is, uh, bad!) Finally, whatever your numbers were for 06 are your numbers for 07...08...whenever this Congress gets around to passing a budget. This means that the uptick for our new HPC systems doesn't come. This also means that our archnemesis (Oak Ridge) keeps getting uberfunded when they were supposed to drop in budget numbers. The DOE Office of Science CANNOT simply shuffle around the dinero either. It's killing us, but ORNL is making out like a bandit.

Rather ironic since we're Blue Staters and they...

Bernard Guerrero

"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."

This was going to be my follow-up question from your last post. I imagined both that the local job market is relatively weak and that you have particularly talented local staff that you pay out the nose for (in local terms.) One can imagine that they'd be upset.

My first thought was that the particularly talented ones might look to leverage their connection with a prestigous foreign employer into a way to leave the country.

Noel Maurer

Very slick use of a New Wave song title! Kudos.

That aside, it seems very sad. Sure, the "particularly talented" ones will do fine. But those aren't the ones I'd care about, if I were you.

I do not envy you, Doug.

Doug M.

We pay, by local standards, top dollar. Which means about 1/4 as much as an American doing the same job in America would make.

That sounds snarky but it's a simple statement of fact. A highly skilled technical translator at our project, someone with ten years experience turning complicated American legal documents into even more complicate Armenian ones, might get between $15,000 and $20,000 per year. In the US that's well below minimum wage; in Armenia, that puts her around the 90th percentile of wage earners.

Thing is, Armenia -- a none-too-rich country with just three million people -- doesn't have a huge market for technical translators. So finding a new job that pays as well is going to be tricky.

Some people have more general skills that will market more easily. But, you know what I'm finding? While the skills are important, personality and attitude may be even more so. I know that sounds kinda cheesy, but it's true. The employees I'm most worried about aren't people with very specialized skills... they're people who are older and less flexible, or who are shy and less willing to go out and do the shake-it-baby self-marketing necessary to land a high-paying job.

Anyway. Will be an ongoing story over the next few months.

Doug M.

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