Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Day

O.K., everyone can stop worrying, I'm back to working with tools! Most of the work at Chalk Point is done, so I was transferred to Equinix Data Center in Ashburn, Va.(never did get to use that fire extinguisher). It was nice because most of the crew from Chalk also transferred to the same job. It's a whole lot easier to get settled and working when you know people. I've only been in this trade for three years(2 yrs. 10months), and I'm already running into people from past jobs. I've always tried to work with the other trades. We all have jobs to do, and we are all pains in each others' asses. A little courtesy and cooperation may pay off big when the journeyman plumber you helped out two years ago is the plumbers' foreman on your present job.

Anyway, about this new job. It just so happens that we just learned a little about data centers in school. A data center is basically a secure site for digital information storage and it's associated equipment. It's a rush job, so there's plenty of overtime to be had, which is always a good thing. My overtime pay is less than an A journeyman's straight time pay! It's pretty exciting to think that my salary will almost double in a little more than two years. I'm pretty sure that we're offered about twenty hours a week of O.T.. I can only manage about twelve with my schedule. I have an eighteen month old son in daycare, so my evenings are taken up. The crew I'm on is working on mounting electrical panels an equipment to control HVAC motors. After the mounting, we will run conduits to connect everything. Then we will pull wire into the conduits and terminate the ends. It sounds easy when you say it, but I guarantee that there will be plenty of headaches and it will take longer than planned. This job is supposed to be done in the second week of June. I don't see how it possibly could, but it will be interesting to see.
This is very good work to be doing, and I hope I'll get the chance to practice some of the things I've learned.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It's funny to think back to the times when I enjoyed driving. I used to go for drives, no destination, just driving and listening to good music. These days you would almost have to pay me to be on the road for no apparent reason. One downside to this trade is the constant risk of becoming a member of the super-commuter club. With the exception of gas, long distance drives aren't hateful, but accidents, rush hour traffic, and a-hole drivers are. My round trip commute right now is 144 miles. In the mornings my ride is about one hour and fifteen minutes. Getting home can take me up to two and a half hours. I think my average is about an hour and forty-five minutes. As electricians, we must go where the work is. No telecommuting for us! On the bright side(or maybe the down side), no job lasts forever.
As I mentioned in my last post, my current project at work is FIRE-WATCH, and it's pretty awful. Being the low man on the pole sucks, but then again, everyone has to put their time in. Doing crap jobs makes you appreciate the good work even more. All I can do is be the best fire watch that I can be, and hope for a different assignment.
School is pretty easy right now. We are doing some review work on electrical code, and touching on topics like telecommunication wiring, fire alarm, and security systems. I think the idea is to give us a feel for different areas of our work. In about five months our paid day school will be over and done. In September we will choose electives to study in night school, so we should have an idea of what we like and dislike. Anyway, we don't have assigned homework anymore, all we have to do is study and pass our tests. Sweet. I don't know if I could even do homework with my current schedule. BUT, like I said, you still have to study for tests, which is what I should be doing now, so, see ya'.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chalk Point "Work"

Hello again! Since my last post, I've been working at the Chalk Point power plant, and I use the term working loosely. I am ashamed at the amount of work I've done in three weeks. Everything takes three or four times longer at the power house,and it's very frustrating, at least for me. Security and safety are my two biggest obstacles. I have to wait ten or so minutes in the morning just to get through the front gate. At seven o'clock, we have a short safety talk before the long walk to the work areas. By the time I actually start working it's usually eight o'clock, which gives me just enough time to do nothing before stopping work at 8:50 so I can take break at 9:00. We take a fifteen minute break, so I usually get back to my work area at about 9:30, which gives me just about two hours and twenty minutes until we stop for lunch. So, after a thirty minute lunch, we're back in the work area around12:45, leaving two hours before clean up and the walk back. The power house issues contractors badges to get on the property, and I've probably spent three hours dealing with badges(long story). On the bright side, I hate my current assignment, so less work is good. I am on fire watch. Fire watch is when you sit with a fire extinguisher and watch a welder work, that's it! I make sure the sparks coming off the welded materials don't hit anyone or start fires-BORING!!!! It's not awful(okay, it is), but what bugs me is that I'm missing out on the on the job training, which will have a lot to do with the type of electrician I will be. I'm happy to be working in any event, but I'll be happier to get tools back in my hands. At least I work with some good people, so I'll try to make the best of it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Wow! Has anyone worked this week? I've aways liked snow, but with no paid leave, I'm beginning to hate it. There is a lot to love about being in a union, so we take the good with the bad. I don't like paying dues, but I don't like paying taxes either. The good thing about it is that I benefit GREATLY from funding our union. As for taxes????? Actually, I know taxes are a necessary evil, I find fault with the amounts and usage of them. Anyway, our class in day school just started our fifth and final book. It seems like book four was only two classes long. As I mentioned in an earlier post, book four was mainly about motor control. If anyone was wondering about how my take home test went- 37 out of 50 points. Not bad, but not good. Luckily our in school test score was combined with our take home, which gave me a composite score of 89 percent. In this program, 74% is a failing grade! It was explained to me that it's generous to require us to be proficient in three quarters of what we are taught. Our last session in motor control had a hands on test in addition to our written test. I made only one small (careless) mistake. Book four was definitely my favourite so far. I will definitely be taking more classes when I get to night school. It's too bad that apprentices' work assignments aren't based on school, but I couldn't imagine how something like that could be coordinated, and with work being slow, I'm happy just to be working. Last Wednesday, my sub foreman told me I was being transferred to Chalk Point in Aquasco, Md. I was sad at first, because it causes me a lot more problems than I already have, but it took maybe 30 seconds to think of the guys on the bench that would love to take my place. My home to home time just got 15 hours a week longer(10 hours EXTRA driving(if I'm lucky) and 5 hours overtime. What makes it worse is a seven a.m. starting time. Okay, I'm done whining. At worst I'll be there for seven months(next contractor transfer), and I've never been on one job site for more than seven months. My first day there was Friday, and I sat in an office trailer for five hours going through more safety orientation. I've lost count of the time spent on safety training at Dyna alone! I think that the contractors are serious about keeping accidents (insurance claims) down. I'll be sure to let you know what type of work I'll be doing at Chalk Point, once I actually get to work. As most of you know,since Saturday Feb. 6th, the D.C. area has been hit with about 50 inches of snow in five days, and it's still freakin' snowing!!!!! Stir crazy? For some reason, it took Howard County four days to plow my road. The neighborhood actually banded together and blew/shoveled between 1/2 and 3/4 of a mile of snow 40 inches deep. So, after being stuck for four days I was determined to go to work today, weather and all. Bad idea. I nearly jammed the inner loop up this morning. Some as*$#!e in a hurry cut me off, sending me int a spin at 35 mph on the beltway. Luckily, my truck slid backwards into a snow bank. The snow bank probably saved my life and my truck. This adventure left me pointing head first into traffic, blocking half of the slow lane, just over the crest of a hill. Luckily my roadside assistance was johnny on the spot with four wheel drive and a set of chains. That's more than I can say for the Maryland State Police trooper who stopped. He was nice enough to crack his window far enough to tell me to get my vehicle moved as soon as possible-%$#%&$%&^%*^ . Anyway, trying to work today almost cost me a lot more than I would have earned, and maybe my or someone else's life. I learned an important thing today. Missing work sucks(missing paychecks) , but is a days work worth your life?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday TIME

Hello again. Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Sorry it's been so long since my last blog. It's amazing how busy things have been for me the last couple of months. I've been trying to backtrack on my first and second year experiences since I started this during my third year. Unfortunately, I could talk for days about that, and I haven't had the time for that. So, for the time being I'm only going to talk about what I'm doing now.

Time, it's something that the apprenticeship is going to take from you! My class just finished a take home test/project. We're studying motor control (LOVE IT), and our project was to design

and draw a diagram for a manufacturing process. I feel like I have a good handle on the subject, but let me tell you something. I had a total of two weeks for that project, plenty of time, right? My rough final draft was done two days early, giving me plenty of time to draw and label everything neatly. I was even lucky enough that the day before it was due was a holiday, so I had a whole day to work on it. With no exaggeration, I can tell you that going from rough draft to finished test took me about nine hours of solid work(10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. with short breaks to change diapers, eat, and such). What makes it really bad is that I wasn't even close to satisfied with what I turned in, and I only put in about twenty minutes on what I thought was the easiest part of the assignment. All I needed to do was list the number of wires that would be needed in various conduits for our circuits, but at 2:30 in the morning, nothing matters but sleep. I could have stayed up a little later, but then I ran the risk of oversleeping, and missing a strict deadline.

I've got nine days to finish all of my homework and study for the next test, and I guarantee that I'll be up late on the eighth night trying to finish. It seems to me that this program is designed to be hard to fail. Go to class, do your homework, study, and get tutoring if you need it. If you don't have the time for all of those things, you can probably get by, but you're going to struggle all the way.

Still working for Dyna in D.C.. I think I've worked the last six or seven Saturdays, which is NICE. I always say yes to overtime, because you never know when you'll get it, and if the bosses know I want it, maybe they'll ask me first. It also seems wrong not to take it when there are a thousand men (and women) in our local that are out of work.
Right now, I am running pipe for space heaters in a loading dock. It's not exciting, but it's good work for me, and I'm enjoying it. Since I've been working here I've done a lot of things that were new to me, like tying in switch gear, transfer switches, and other gear. Hopefully my luck will continue!

That's all for now, good night.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go get me some quarter inch drop ins. That was my first task on my first day in the apprenticeship. Now let me remind you that this was also my first day in construction as well. The only anchor I ever set was attached to a boat! "Yes sir, I'll be right back, but- What's a drop in? Where are they? What's a sea can?" And that was how my workday started, with my new boss.

It's hard to believe that was only two years ago. This program is one of the smartest things I've ever done. I would love to tell you that every day was fantastic and I loved everyone I worked with, but I can't. Let me tell you some of the more memorable things I hated doing as a first year apprentice. Carrying wire in 100 degree heat. Carrying wire in the freezing cold. Carrying ......... Cleaning up other peoples' tools and materials. Learning how to feed/push wire with one hand and soap with the other. Now that I think of it, that stuff wasn't so bad, and it gave me a lot of good opportunities to show my new employers that if nothing else I'll work hard at whatever my task is. In any job I've always found that people would rather teach a hard worker than push a skilled lazy one.

My first contractor was Heller Electric. My first job site was Parkdale H.S. in Riverdale, Md. Any job with free parking is a sweet job! The foreman assigned me to work with the sub-foreman, Dwayne. That guy intimidated me from jump. I would have never let him know that, but he did. We must have worked together for a week straight before he had anything not job related to say to me. I remember it well, he said"Mornin' ". It took Dwayne a while to warm up to me, but once he did I finally felt like part of the crew. Dwayne started to teach me things and explain stuff. Being new to the trade made any and all tips, advice, and instruction INVALUABLE. A lot of the things he taught me have made me look good again and again. Take my advice, listen to any anyone who tries to teach you. You don't have to agree, just take it in and store it away.

I only worked at that school for about two months when our crew finished. All that I really remember is that it was hot that summer, and that I had everything to learn.

After Parkdale, we went as a crew to Walther Johnson H.S in Bethesda, Md. Any job with free parking is a good job. I was really lucky to be on that job. I got to see a renovation and addition from the ground up. We had a great foreman there, Rick Jackson. Nice guy and a hard worker. I would definitely say that he set my standards for a foreman very high. For the most part, I worked with Dwayne until I was transferred for the apprenticeship. We did a lot of temporary wiring and demo work for about a month, and then the sea cans showed up. Sea containers, for those of you who don't know, are the big metal boxes you see on cargo ships and trains. They are used in construction for secure,cheap, on site material storage. Anyway, the cans coming wasn't a big deal, but filling them up was. For two months, people would drop pallets of material outside one of the cans, and then I got to fill those containers up one by one. It was hard to stack that amount of material neatly. I did alright, but some material piles I've seen since would have put mine to shame. After we finally had a fully stocked job, I was assigned to pre-fab. My job was to make boxes with short pieces of conduit to install in block walls. It might sound funny, but I almost enjoyed that. No one really ever bothered me, and I never had any worries. Most days I made it a game to keep running counts in my head of how many assemblies I made, trying to do better the next day.

One day, around December or January, the masons showed up, and it seems like I've been running ever since! Public schools are generally constructed of concrete blocks, brick, and steel. As the masons(block layers) build the walls one course (row or layer of blocks) at a time, an electrician will install boxes in the wall at varying heights, and run their conduits up and out of the walls. It's easy work until you have three or four walls being built at one time. After a few months I was let loose on my own. For each wall being built, I had to look at five sets of drawings! Power,lighting, low voltage, mechanical, and architectural drawings. It felt nice to be trusted with sort of thing, but it was hard dirty work.

I could talk about my first year forever, but I won't. It was hard, dirty work, I learned a lot, and had a lot of fun. I think that I will remember the people from that job for a long long time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Days at Dyna

On the road again! I just got transferred to Dyna for the third year of my apprenticeship. Honestly, I still get a little nervous whenever I start a new job, or go to a new job site. Luckily,I'm working with a good bunch, so settling in was easy.
I wish that I had exciting stories about the work I've done at Dyna so far, but, I don't, and that's not really a bad thing. What is exciting (at least to me) is Dyna's SERIOUS commitment to safety. During my first week with them, I was paid to sit through about nine hours of various safety classes and training. While they might not have been thrilling, it's a good feeling to know that there are people working to ENSURE that everyone leaves the job site in the same condition that they arrived. On the other hand, sometimes it's really uncomfortable to wear a hard hat, gloves and safety glasses for eight hours. BUT- Clark Construction and Dynalectric make it easy. Do it, or go home. Speaking only for myself, sometimes I need to be saved from myself. I always forget that I don't know everything until it's too late! I didn't need that stupid hard hat, until I rammed my head into a piece of rod in a ceiling. OOOUUUCCCHHH! Sometimes, on a quiet night, you can still hear my cries. So, maybe it is a good thing to have mandatory protective equipment use. Some men are born safe, and some have safety thrust upon them.
Anyway, after all of my safety classes and such, I met my foreman, and got a quick tour of the site. The first question I was asked was, "Are you good at running pipe?". Boy o' boy did I drop the ball on that one. My only answer should have been HELL YEAH, but what came out of my mouth was,"I can do it, but I don't know if I'm GOOD at it.". All I saw in the building up to that point were three and four inch pipe, which intimidated me. Maybe my answer to that question is why I'm hanging lights and pulling wire. I can tell you for sure that I won't make a stupid mistake like that again. Hopefully my foreman will see that I work hard and that I'm conscientious in every task that I do.
Well that's it for today, I've got to study for this #%**@!# test on Thursday. Have a good week all!