Lemont & Marilyn

Lemont & Marilyn
Lemont & Marilyn -- Anniversary Picture 2010

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 26 Update

We wrapped up another week at Ancestry.com today.  I haven't seen Moms stats but I think I've been handling around 50-60 calls a day.  Don't know how that compares to seasoned reps, but I suspect it is still low.  I tend to spend too much time on each call.  I had a meeting on Monday afternoon with one of the recruiters to followup on an application I submitted through monster.com for a recent posting for a Senior Director Web Operations.  I meet every one of the posted job requirements.  I am told HR will be meeting with the hiring managers the middle of next week and they will choose about 6 candidates to call in for interviews from among "many" qualifed applicants.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Not sure what my chances are, but I am hopeful.  We have had some heavy rain and even some more snow this last week -- and both days we were reminded how grateful we were to NOT be out flagging in that weather.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 19 Update

Well, we've completed our second week on the job.  Hasn't been much to report all week, so I'm putting it all in a this weekly update.  I missed a couple of days (Sat and Sun) because I stayed home fighting the left-over cough and wheezing from my cold.  I'll be seeing the doctor this afternoon to see if there is anything that I can do to speed getting over it.  My wheezing has been keeping Mom awake at night.  I found a posting on Monster for a Senior Director Web Operations at Ancestry.com and applied.  I haven't heard anything yet.  The recruiter I've been working with at Ancestry was on vacation until yesterday.   I think I'm a pretty good match for the stated requirements -- pretty much exactly what I did a the Times for seven years and the requirements could have been written off my resume!  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I found out who the hiring manager is but the guy I talked to, who is one of the training managers in our customer service department, didn't know him.  He is a Senior Vice President of IT and reports directly to the CEO.  Hope I can at least get an interview soon.  It sounds like it would be something I would enjoy and would be good at -- and would be able to make a bigger contribution to Ancestry.com than I can as a customer service rep.

Still kind of strange having our "weekend" in the middle of the week but it does give us time to set up things like chiropractor and dentist appointments that we might otherwise have to take time off for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 12 Update

Well, we made it through our first full week out of training.  Mom is feeling better and better about it and is doing a smashing job.  I still get really tired by the end of the day.  Guess I miss the stimulation of doing more creative work as a programmer.  We have the next couple of days off and plan to get some routine maintenance tasks taken care of.  My car is having a problem with one of the oxygen sensors so I've got to get that checked.  The weather forecast is for rain both days so I don't know how much we'll get done around the ranch.  Just about to where it needs to be mowed and we need to start getting ready to plant our garden.  I also noticed a few more singles have blown off the roof so I've got to climb up there and take care of that. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 10 Update

Sunday!  And yes, it was interesting.  The call load was much lighter.  Mom even found time to review Sunday school and RS lessons.  We still had only one lead again today and NO escalation folks, so on some of the more complicated calls our hands were tied.  This puts us just over half-way through our first full work week--just have Mon and Tue to go, then we'll  have a couple of days off.  I am still not used to how tiring it is when I'm not doing anything physical.  I would have expected that my construction work or flagging would have been more of a physical drain, but by the end of the day here I'm pretty whipped.  Guess my body misses the exercise provided by more physical jobs.  We have signed up for the Orem Fitness Center, we just need to get organized with proper gear and get into a routine of going.  I'm sure that will help.  When I was at the Times I was able to use the Executive Fitness Center and started my day with a couple hours there 3 times a week and it felt great.  Of course I was salaried then and could easily adjust my schedule to accommodate the morning workouts.  Now we're on a fixed schedule so we'll have to go really early before work or  hang around afterwards.  But I'm sure we'll work it out.

April 9 Update

Today was Saturday so the number of calls were down a little but we still kept pretty busy.  While they've hired a bunch of new people (including us) as Customer Service Reps, they apparently haven't beefed up the supervisors or "escalation" folks.  There was one "lead" covering two or three support groups today and only one "escalation" person -- which meant endless time on hold when we needed help.  I lost at least one caller while waiting on hold for escalation and had another poor lady on the phone for nearly an hour, much of it on hold while I tried to get more information and help than is available on our standard customer service screens.  Tomorrow is Sunday.  Should be interesting to see how that goes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8 Update

Today marks the beginning of our first regular Fri-Tue work week.  Mom and I both got emails indicating one of our earlier calls had been monitored and we both got 100% ratings.  Guess we're doing something right.  I don't think my body likes my chair very well.  The last two or three days on the job I've had a tension headache by noon.  Yccch!  The weatherman here still hasn't gotten word that it is Spring!  We have fruit trees blooming, grass growing, and shade trees leafing out -- and it snowed a good part of the day today.  No accumulation, but an inch or so is predicted tonight and tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4 Update

Today was my first day on my own on the phones.  Kinds of stressful, but all in all, it wasn't too bad.  Mom passed her written test and was on her own this afternoon too.  It started out cold this morning, around 24F when we left home, but warmed up to somewhere in the 60s during the day.  Most of the recent snow has melted.  They say there is another storm coming Wednesday and will last through Saturday.  The forecast is for both rain and snow, so who knows what we'll end up with.  I still think the weatherman didn't get the memo that March 21 was the first day of Spring!  Looks like the grass and the trees around here did though.  The grass is getting pretty green and the trees are getting ready to leaf out.  Wyoming and Colorado were both still pretty brown when we were there.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3 Update

We just got home from Wyoming and Colorado and Jerry's wedding.  It was a quick trip.  We left Thursday night about midnight and got into Kristen's in Ft Collins about 7:00 am.  We left Kristen's this morning about 8:00 and got home around 5:30.  We encountered some snow along the way and saw 5 big rigs that had slid off the road.  Two were in a rest area, with one blocking the entry road.  The other 3 were out on I-80 and  had slid out on the slick freeway.  One was way off in the median between the freeway and an on ramp.  One was just off to the right side of the road -- and quite thrashed!  The third one had just been pulled of the center median going the opposite direction than we were going.  The roads were slushy at times, but mostly just wet, with blowing snow.  It was a wonderful trip.  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Jerry and Kim and with Mike and Heidi, who were also staying at Kristen's and with Angie and Jared, who we rode down and back with.  The wedding was at the court house in Cheyenne, WY.  Kim's Dad and step-mom were there, along with one of her best friends and her sister.  Brad and Darlene also flew in from California.  Kim's dad took lots of digital pictures and has the touch of a professional photographer.  They sent a disc of photos home with us.  We can't wait to check them out!  Fabulous 2 or 3 days!

The storm we drove through left its mark in Payson.  We came home to about 6-8 inches of snow in the yard.  All the roads were still clear.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31 Update

Well, we are done with our two weeks training as of today (we're taking tomorrow off for Jerry's wedding).  When we come back we'll work Mon and Tue, then have Wed-Thu off, then work Fri-Tue.  I was paired with one of the top agents today and it went well.  Mom will be taking a written form of the final test on Monday.  She had a much better day on the phones today.  I chatted briefly with one of the managers at the end of the day and he quipped that they "needed to get me into the right job" (referring to some kind of senior IT position).  Guess my networking is working!  I'm  hoping it pays off soon.  I don't think I was cut out to handle customer phone calls all day.  It isn't really all that bad, but I guess I miss the creativity I had in my old jobs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30 Update

One more day of training.  Mom re-took her final test and got 75%.  She needs 80 to pass.  She was pretty stressed out over having to take it over and I think that made it harder for her than it should have been.   She doesn't know yet if/when she'll be taking it again.  I think I saw they allowed up to three tries, so she should still have one to go.   I spent the whole day on the phones with another agent looking over my shoulder.  Mom was on the phones after she finished her test.  Some things are getting easier -- I think -- but every call is different enough that there isn't much to carry over from one to the next.  Guess it is good experience to get a lot of different things to handle, but it isn't very comfortable! 

March 29 Update

We had our final test for Member Services training today.  I passed but Mom has to take it again today.  She forgot that although it was a "closed book" test (we couldn't use our student manuals or notes), it was an "open computer" test and we were allowed and even expected to use the web site and the agent tools on the computer.  She'll be taking it again on Wednesday.  Other than that, we're pretty much in the mode to continue sharing calls with more experienced agents the rest of the week.  Yesterday we were the active agents and our mentors just listened in, pointed out where to go on the computer, and made suggestions after each call.  I still get focused on listening to the customer and forget to do the "tracking" and had to go back and do it after the fact several times.   By next Monday we should be on our own.  We will work Monday and Tuesday, then start our regular week by having Wed-Thu off, then work Fri-Tue.  Weather has been typical for Utah this time of year.  I think the weather department didn't get the memo that March 21 was the first day of spring though.  It has still been pretty cold -- around 24 when we left home and Monday the forecast included up to 3" of snow that didn't happen, but we did get some strong snow flurries a couple of tiems during the day.  Grass is getting green and trees are getting ready to leaf out as soon as we do get some warm weather.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28 Update

We started our second week of training today.  Spent about  half a day in the classroom, then had a Jeopardy-style "final test review" that was kind of fun.  Our side won, betting our entire 6,000 points on Final Jeopardy and winning!  The other side also got the right answer, but they only risked 3,000 of their 7,100 points so they ended up with 10,100 and totalled 12,000!  We also did some "role playing" where a couple of the instructors pretended to be customers and we acted like were taking their calls.  Then we were on to the real call center floor.  Mom did the talking and her training partner "drove" the computer.  I got to do both, with my trainer pointing out what I should be clicking on.  Their training program is pretty well thought out, teaching background, then basic skills, and letting you listen in and monitor some live calls before you have to do any yourself.  Tomorrow we'll be back on the phones part of the day and taking our final exam.  Then Wed and Thu we'll be on the phones again.   We're taking Friday off to go to Jerry's wedding.  Looks like we'll be working Mon and Tue next week, then our regular shift will start with Wed-Thu off and working Fri-Tue. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 Update

We completed our first week of training today.  We took another step closer to handling customer calls.  This afternoon we were hands-on the computer while our trainer-agents were on the phone and we were listening, so we got to practice using the computer tools we need to verify accounts and explore and resolve problems.  We will have only two more days of classroom training next week, then we'll be on the floor with shadow agents the rest of the week.  Except Mom and I have approval to take Friday off so we can go to Jerry's wedding.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 Update

Day four of training and it is going well.  Spent some more time "Y-jacked" with customer service agents in the call center, listening to customer calls and watching agents handle them.  Also attended a "Member Services Update" meeting that they  have every month.  A good part of it was dedicated to recognition of top performers.  Plus a free lunch and a free raffle.   I won a nice 2 D-cell Maglite as the next to last ticket drawn!  The recruiter I've been talking to said they are "close to making an offer" so someone else on the director position we talked about  yesterday, so that is off the table, but he has forwarded my resume to another department that has an unposted position.  It had been posted but the hiring manager couldn't really make up his mind what he wanted so they pulled the posting.   I'm fighting a cold so I'm kind of out of it right now.  I have another C.E.R.T. class to go to tonight.  Last night was Fire Safety, including an exercise using fire extinguishers to put out a "burn tray" fire.  The burn tray is a device one of the firemen made.  It is a tin tray about 3'x4' x 3" deep and filled with water.  There are about 4 copper pipes running through it and they bubble propane up through the water as fuel for the fire.  It was windy last night so  many people had trouble putting out their fires as the wind would blow the flames back around after they'd been put out, but I did well.  In fact, I think I was about the fastest.  One of the firemen commented "Looks like you've done this before."  With at least 3-5 C.E.R.T. courses  under my belt, indeed I  have done it before.  Tonight is our first session on Disaster First Aid.  The second one will be next Wednesday, then we'll be on to Light Search and Rescue.  It is all pretty much very familiar to me, but it is good to have the review.  The whole course is 9 sessions.  After tonight I'll  have 6 sessions to go (I missed the first one last week).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23 Update

We completed our third day of training today.  We got to spend a few minutes listening in on actual customer service calls.  We also received our personal copies of Family Tree Maker and started learning how to use it.  I also had a meeting with one of the recruiters about a director of member services position.  It wasn't an actual interview, more of an exploratory meeting for both of us, but I thought it went well and he said he was going to "flag" my resume for his boss, who is actually responsible for filling the position.  The recruiter said they had another director level position that isn't posted right now that he thought I might be good for. 

I also went to a C.E.R.T. class tonight to begin getting re-certified.  Mom was going to take the class too, but since we were working last week when the first class was held, she missed it and has to wait for the next class.  I get re-certified by attending the rest of the classes. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21 Update

We completed our first day of training at Ancestry.com today.  Seems like a pretty nice place to work.  Today was mostly paperwork and orientation.  Tomorrow we'll get our own logins to ancestry.com and start learning how to use the system.  We are reviewing medical and dental plans -- so far we haven't been able to confirm our doctor or dentist accepts their plans so we have some more research to do.  The coverages seem pretty good and the cost fairly reasonable.  Ancestry.com also offers a discount on medical if we participate in a company-paid wellness program so we're looking into that too.  Company paid vision coverage is included if we select any of the medical coverages.  Our training schedule will be 8:30 am to 4:00 pm for the next two weeks.  We don't yet know how we'll transition to our regular Fri-Tue working schedule.  The corporate campus and facilities are very nice.  They do some nice things each week, like cater lunch on Tuesdays and Wednesday -- our lunch tomorrow is free, but normally employees pay $4 for the lunches and the company picks up the other $3 for the $7 lunch.  They also provide bagels and fruit on Thursday mornings.  They have an arrangement for inexpensive memberships to the Orem Fitness Center so we can take advantage of year-round swimming and running and weight etc.  We have exported our existing PAF files to the standard GEDCOM format so we can import them into ancestry.com as part of our training tomorrow.  Once we have them updated on ancestry.com we can transfer them back to PAF at home.  They told us there were 321 applicants, of whom 91 were selected for interviews and 30 hired -- 9% of all the applicants made the cut, so we feel pretty good about being there!  Mom said her interviewer told her she was the very last person interviewed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19 Update

I'm sure Mom will have already talked with or left voicemails with most of you, but she got a call from Ancestry.com and she starts training with me on Monday!  She talked with the recruiters about both of us getting time off for Jerry's wedding and Langdon's graduation and we MIGHT be able to work that out!  We'll have to coordinate with the training manager and then with our supervisor.  Guess we'll have to work extra hard in training, 'cause our  last day of training is April 1.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18 Update

Our last day at Shelf Reliance.  We spent the better part of the first half of our shift doing water barrels again.  This time we had to go to a difference warehouse a mile or so away.  We were at it past our normal lunch break and came back to the original warehouse to pick orders after we got back from "lunch" (at 6:30 - 7:00 pm!).  About the only new task we had today was making up the cardboard dividers for the shipping boxes.  They are really quite interesting.  They come with all three components for each of two dividers all in one piece of cardboard that has the assembly slots cut out and are partially cut to form the long center piece and the two shorter cross pieces.  To break them down into the various pieces to be assembled you just bend a stack of them back and forth a  couple of times and they snap apart.  Quite an ingenious design.  I figured out I could probably save Shelf Reliance about $100,000 a year with just two words:  assembly line.    Wish I could get them to let me set up assembly lines for making the barrel kits and for shipping -- for, oh, say, 10% of the annual savings for 5 years.  One of the chief honchos was working alongside us doing the barrels and I see why no one seems to have a clue how to organize things better.  They're just following his example.  Oh well, we don't have to worry about that any more!  I start training at Ancestry.com on Monday.  We hope Mom will get an offer from them tomorrow and be able to start on Monday as well.  For now, we're just looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.  Even though our shift this week didn't start until 2:00 pm we were getting up and getting going a lot earlier to get stuff done before we  had to go to work.  For instance, this morning Mom went in to give plasma and yesterday she had her interview at Ancestry.com.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17 Update

We worked another shift at Shelf Reliance again today.  Nothing very interesting to report -- just a normal day picking orders but at the end of the shift they needed an extra good cleaning done because the USDA inspector is coming tomorrow and he has a reputation for getting down and looking under shelving etc with a flashlight.  We're getting so we know the locations of many of the products without having to look up the codes on the order sheets.  I still see plenty of things that I would definitely do differently if I were in charge,  things that would make the workplace safer and things that would make employees more efficient.  For example, the way the shipping area is set up they stack the pallets at the same end where orders are coming in, then have to drag the pallets all the way down through the warehouse, then over, then back up to where the doors are to the trucks.  Seems to me it would make more sense to make the shipping process a linear one with orders coming in one side and pallets built on the other end near the doors!  Duh!  The way it is, the pallets have to be moved back past all the order carts that are lined up and being filled.  Oh well, we only have one more day, unless they ask us to come in on Saturday, which would be time and a half.  At least one temp has already been scheduled for Saturday, but so far we haven't.  Probably just as well.  There are things we need to get done around the place and it would be a good idea to get rested up before we start training on Monday at Ancestry.com.  Mom has an interview at 9:30 tomorrow morning.  We're both pretty sure she'll get an offer and be starting training on Monday when I do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16 Update

Just another day at the Shelf Reliance warehouse.  We packed another 100 barrels and filled a bunch of orders.  We worked on a a "megapack" toward the end of the shift.  It consists of (I think) 32 cases of #10 cans of food storage, with 6 cans per case.  We worked 2:00 pm until 11:00 pm today.  Everyday I see more that could use improvement in their methods and facilities.  I'm sure they'd be in big trouble if they got a surprise visit from OSHA!  The way things are done around there constantly reminds me of a phrase in a movie involving a monkey and a football.  From the way they do things they never  heard of Henry Ford and his greatest invention:  the assembly line. 

Mom got a voicemail from Ancestry.com yesterday and talked with them this morning.  She has an interview tomorrow morning so maybe she'll be starting training with me next week.  Wouldn't that be cool!

No word yet on disaster relief security jobs.  The first conversation made it sound rather urgent, but obviously it isn't since we haven't heard anything more in several days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15 Update

I got a call from Ancestry.com this morning and was offered a job as a Customer Service Rep.  I start training on Monday (March 21).  After 2 weeks training I'll be working Friday through Tuesday.  They mentioned possibly interviewing me for a Team Lead position in a few weeks and that would be a nice advancement.

Ancestry.com is still advertising for Customer Service Reps so Mom is going to apply.  Wouldn't that be cool if we could both work there?

Mom and I pulled another shift at Shelf Reliance today.  We started out packaging 55 gallon plastic water barrels for shipment, then helped restock some returns, including a "megapack" that was a pallet about 8 or 10 layers deep.  We made up some Emergency backpacks and then spent the rest of the day picking orders.  I wouldn't mind having one or two of the Emergency backpacks.  They seem to be pretty well thought out.

There is talk of having us work a few hours overtime toward the end of the week.   The extra hours and the time and half would be nice, but the days can be quite tiring.  It isn't really heavy work, but it is tedious and I have needed pain pills for my back about half way through each day so far.  I sometimes needed them when we were flagging, but usually only when we had windy days and I had to fight the paddle.  This job involves a lot of bending and twisting and lifting so we're both kind of sore by the end of the day, but not nearly as sore as we were the first few days of flagging, so we'll probably get used to it soon. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14 Update

We haven't had any flagging work for the last three weeks.  I drove down to Las Vegas with Steve Dellos last week for a few days.  We met with some of the protection companies we've previously contacted.  Steve and I had lunch with the CEOs of Alpha Protection and Omega Protection.  They work together and I had previously emailed both of them about getting together while we were in town, but I didn't expect to meet with them at the same time -- but that is what happened.  This  morning I picked up a voice mail from the CEO of Omega.  He said he called me by mistake, but was glad that he did.  He said he and his buddy, head of Alpha Protection, enjoyed meeting us and would definitely call us if they have work, especially if they have work in Utah.  He had some film company work around St. George but it was postponed.  Alpha and Omega work together to teach a very comprehensive PPS course that we'd like to take some day to enhance our credentials and skills -- and to strengthen our relationship with these two companies.  But for now, it is all just additional networking.

Steve and I also took the class that Nevada requires to get our concealed carry permits for Nevada.  We have to go back and complete qualification at the firing range and submit our applications to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department before we can get our permits, but at least we  have completed the required classroom work -- and the class was free!  Most companies charge $120-130 for the class, but I found one that does the class for free!  And the instructor were excellent.  The morning was mostly dedicated to  legal aspects and what to do and not to do.  The instructor has been teaching concealed carry classes for 45 years and he is still an active LVPD officer.  His wife taught the afternoon session on gun safety and cleaning.  She was also very good and has a fistfull of NRA teaching and range master credentials.

Mom and I got a new assignment from Strategic Staffing this week.  We're working at Shelf Reliance, a company that specializes in emergency preparedness and food storage.  We're just working in the warehouse -- picking and packing orders and putting together emergency backpacks they sell.  Not anything very challenging but at least we're working and it is interesting to see some of the stuff they sell.  We're working from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm all week.  It is kind of good to  have a predictable schedule.  I don't think it pays quite as good as flagging, but getting a full 40 hours may make up for it, compared to the hours we've been getting for flagging.   Hopefully the flagging will pick up now that the weather is improving. 

The radio tower work I thought I had lined up didn't work out yet, but there is supposed to be another assignment coming up in the next month.  If that comes through it should pay nearly twice what I make flagging, plus per diem.

There may be an opportunity to provide security for relief supplies and relief workers in Japan.  The word is they are going to need a lot of private security, but we don't have anything concrete on that yet.  It might not be the most pleasant time to visit Japan, but Mom and I would still welcome the opportunity to travel and perhaps even be part of the relief effort.  From what I've heard we have all the certification and training that is required -- and then some.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1 Update

We didn't get called for flagging on Monday.  We did get a call this afternoon but we were volunteering at the Deseret Meat Packing Plant and didn't get the messages in time to accept an assignment tonight.  Tyler and Taylor have arranged to have Christianna blessed tomorrow night at 6:00 pm so Taylor's folks can be here (they're leaving to go home to Alaska on Saturday) so we let Strategic know we won't be available tomorrow.  Most assignments don't end early enough for us to get home by 6:00 pm.

We've gotten some new PPS leads in the last couple of days that we're pursuing, but don't have anything solid yet.  It is good news that we're establishing more contacts and that they're actually taking and returning our calls!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Februrary 23 Update

We decided we wouldn't do any flagging this week.  We declined on Monday because Taylor was in labor and we didn't get called yesterday.  Mom is doing things around the house she wants to get done before Taylor and Tyler and Christianna come home today and we want to be here to help if they need us for the next few days. 

We did complete the renewal of the registration on the RL yesterday, so its all set for another year.

We also completed the sale of the white truck.  It is completely paid for and gone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21 Update

We didn't do any flagging today, but it was a very eventful day.  We did get a call from Lori at PRC at 5:30 this morning to see if we could flag at 820 N in Provo again today, but we declined, since Taylor went into labor yesterday about noon and we wanted to be available when she had her baby.  We were back and forth to the hospital several times  to see how things were coming along.  Chrisianna Michelle Southworth was finally born around 5:44 pm after something like 31 hours of labor!  She weighted 6 lbs 9 oz and was 21" long.  Mother and baby (and father) are doing well.   We got to see Christianna through the window in the nursery and the pictures Tyler took right after her birth.  She is beautiful!

In between hospital trips we got a few needed things done around the place.  We sold the white truck  this morning.  Just in time, since I needed tires on the RL before it would pass safety inspection to renew the license that expires the end of this month.  I tried to get it all inspected and do the "on the spot" renewal, but apparently the battery is going bad and the on board computer had been cleared and I hadn't driven it enough to reset the codes needed by the emissions tests.  So I am putting the battery charger on it overnight and will then need to drive it 25 miles or so to reset the codes and then get it retested before I can get my renewal.  Hopefully I can get that done in the next day or so, depending on our flagging schedule.

I got some work done on the house today too.  The cover had blown off the swamp cooler a couple of days ago and I got it back on and re-tied back in place.  Mom also found a couple of shingles on the front lawn and when I went up to check out the roof found that 8 tabs had blown off and needed to be replaced so I spent the rest of the afternoon repairing the roof.  Two of the missing tabs were right under the base for the Internet dish antenna, so that made it particularly interesting to replace those.  But I got all 8 replaced and the roof is as good as it can be without being replaced, which it is pretty much in need of.  There are hundreds of shingles that are worn down to where there is almost no "grit" left on them at all, a sure sign that the roof is worn out.  Fortunately we don't have any leaks yet.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 17 Update

Got a confirmation call this morning for our 7:30 assignment at 820 North in Provo.  It was about 24F when we left this morning but by about 11:00 (half hour after our first break) it started warming up to where I needed to change out of my snowsuit.  Unfortunately, I didn't get another break until about 2:30.  By then I'd unzipped all the zippers, taken off my beanie, and was wearing just my glove liners instead of my gloves.  During my break I removed the snowsuit and put on my KTM jacket.  I was pretty comfortable the rest of the day, but around 4:00 I was wishing I had my beanie!  It was still probably around 38F when we got off around 5:30.  We logged 10 hours today.  They asked us to come back to the same location again tomorrow, but about the time we got home Mom got a call from Lori with a change of plans.  Turns out the workers have some big meeting tomorrow morning so they won't be doing any work.  We might get called in for 4 hours later in the day or we might get called for Saturday.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

We had an interesting thing happen.  Some guy in a pickup truck stopped and gave us each a back of chips.  He tried to toss me a bag across the road and it came open and about half it spilled out, so he walked across with another bag for me.  No logo or name on the truck, so we have no idea who our benefactor was.

No update from Steve on the tower job yet.  Last time he called he apologized for the "see-saw" of all the negotiations, but I appreciate him passing along what he can.  Still hopeful that one of these days soon I'll be off to Grand Junction or Moab to work on radio towers!

Mom and I were spread out about a quarter of a mile for most of today again, but they did let her move down near the driveway we're flagging for this afternoon and that made it a LOT easier.  With her so far away, it took forever for traffic to clear once she stopped it and there were several places in between where cars could come out when we had traffic stopped and that always makes for headaches.

It feels good to have the gals at PRC who schedule the flaggers setting things up with us directly again instead of having to wait for calls from the agencies.  And it is a pretty nice complement to be flagging at this particular site since it is one of the big PRC yards and we get a lot of foremen in and out all day so we're kind of in the limelight -- or under the microscope, depending on how you look at it.  Nice to know that they trust us to handle it.  Lori and Cynthia don't even come out to get us started in new locations anymore -- they know we can adjust to whatever needs to be done and will do a good job.  Flagging may not be the most glamorous or well paid job in the world, but, no matter what the job, its worth doing right!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 16 Update

Got called about 7:30 this morning for another "ASAP" assignment, this time at 820 N in Provo.  That is an interesting place to work.  There is a main PRC yard right there and we were flagging for equipment and dump trucks in and out of the yard all day.  820 N is only a 2 lane road, but it is surprisingly busy.  The day went fairly quickly and the weather wasn't too bad.  It did get windy this afternoon so it felt a lot cooler than the 50F or so it really was.  Plus the wind takes it toll on arm and back muscles!  We've already been asked to come back to the same location at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

Still no further word from Steve about the tower job so we'll be off flagging again tomorrow.  Weatherbug predicts 90% chance of rain and snow tonight, with up to 3" accumulation by morning.  Then there's something like a 60% chance of another inch of snow tomorrow.  Brrrr!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15 Update

We got called at 5:00 last night to flag at 300 W in American Fork at 5:30!  No way we could make it that fast, but they said it would be OK for us to just get there was quickly as we could.  We managed to make it by 6:00 pm and flagged until 4:30 this morning, logging 10.5 hours.  Weather wasn't too bad.  It was close to 50F when we left home and only got down to about 30F by the time we left.  We had 6 flaggers when only 5 were really needed so we had a built in "breaker" and so we got two or three breaks during the night to warm up and grab a snack. 

Wildlife watch:  pretty much limited to one stray dog that was hanging around on Mom's side of the freeway.  She kept encouraging him to "go home", but I don't think he/she had one to go to.

Steve called to have me help him look up some stuff on the 'Net and said I should pack my bags.  He expected to have word by noon today about heading out, but since it is about 4:00 pm and I haven't heard from him, I guess he hasn't gotten word yet either.  He said they have confirmed they have 9 dish antennas to install, but that might not quite be enough to justify the extra crew.  At least it isn't completely dead -- yet.

We have no idea if we'll get called to flag again tonight.  It really seems to me they could and should provide more notice.  Last night we didn't have time to get any dinner so our Valentine's Day dinner consisted of a chocolate donut bar and a cup of hot chocolate around midnight.  Actually it hit the spot, even if it didn't meet RDA nutritional standards.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13 Update

I got called to flag yesterday.  The call came in about 9:00 am and they wanted me there ASAP.  I got there at 10:00.  They only needed one flagger and Mom definitely didn't want to go, so I took it.  The assignment was at 300 W in American Fork.  We had 5 flaggers there most of the day.  The foreman for the main project released us all at 3:30 but one of the workers from another crew still working caught me to find out where all the flaggers went.  I told him we'd been released and offered to stay and help them if he needed me.  He called his foreman and they sent me on my way.  But I didn't even make it to the freeway before I got another call from Strategic saying our release was a mistake and to go back.  Four of the five of us that were there came back and we stayed until 5:30 so I got 7.5 hours in yesterday.  The weather was pretty comfortable.  It got up to about 50F in the afternoon.  I took off my snowsuit and just wore my KTM jacket the rest of the day.  I had on thermal garments plus a pair of long-john bottoms and Army fatigue pants so I was fairly comfortable all day. 

Still waiting on confirmation for the radio tower gig with Steve.  The company (a big outfit named Power Engineering) wants to make sure they have a full month of commitments and as of Thursday or Friday only and two weeks, so it looks like there may be some delay.  Darn it!

Mom and I got to chat briefly this afternoon with a BYU police officer from one of the other wards in our building.  I had heard the last part of a talk he gave in his ward a couple of weeks ago describing an experience he had providing protection for "Elder" Monson on a visit to BYU.  He said all of his PPS work has come through his job at BYU and doesn't know much about private contracts, but said he'd make some inquiries for us. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11 Update

Well. we flagged from 8:30 last night until 5:00 this morning.  We started out at 400 N in Orem but it sure didn't seem like they even need 2 flaggers, let alone the 4 that were sent out.  The other pair were a father and son team.  Both teams had talked with Strategic twice so essentially we had 4 confirmations of the location.  We sat in the car until about 11:00 when a PRC foreman came by and said we were supposed to be at Center St and 1200 W, about 4 blocks away!  So we moved and having 4 flaggers made a whole lot more sense.  We had to cover all 4 approaches to the intersection at Center St and 1200W.  Eventually the changed the traffic light to flashing red.  Flaggers are not allowed by law to override a traffic signal.  We do override permanent STOP signs, but not active traffic signals.   Only a uniformed police officer can override an active traffic signal. The night went fairly smoothly once we got going.  Our breaker last night was a big surprise.  It was Kevin, who was one of the RoadSafe honchos when we started flagging last summer.  It was fun that he remembered  us.   Our fellow flaggers told us PRC wanted night flaggers dressed in the lime-green vest and pants instead of the normal orange reflective vest that I think is prescribed by law for all flaggers.  They said not to run out and buy the other vest and pants.  They paid nearly $100 each for theirs and said on one assignment a third flagger didn't have them and PRC gave him a set -- and that the set PRC gave him was better than the ones they bought.  Since no one has said anything to us about it, we'll keep using our Class III orange reflective vests until told otherwise.

Weather last night wasn't bad.  We could tell when the temperature dropped and our feet and fingers were getting cold toward the end of the shift, but it sure could have been a lot worse.  I can barely tell the toe warmers work at all except when they run out after about 5 hours or so and my toes start getting cold.  The hand warmers work better.  For one thing, you can take the packets out and shake them an re-expose them to the air to perk them  up periodically.  The only problem is they don't fit down into the fingers.  I figured the warmth to the palms or the back of the hand would warm the blood enough to keep our fingers warm, but I was wrong.  I suspect mittens would work better, but you lose dexterity wearing mittens and we still have to handle flashlight/wands and radios.

Guess it won't make much difference to me for at least a month since I'll be doing tower work.  Mom and I have talked it over a lot and agree that going with Steve on the tower job is the best thing to do right now.  I expect I'll still be out in the cold, perhaps even nastier conditions than we've faced flagging since the radio towers are located on mountain tops, but I will be more active instead of just standing around and Steve said when it gets really cold, they get back in the truck to warm up frequently.  When it was below zero he said they only worked outside about 10 minutes at a time.  I think having refined my cold weather preparation for flagging, I'll be in pretty good shape for the tower work.

I had some good news from my chiropractor when I went in this morning for an adjustment.  He said my lower back was moving 100% better.   He had planned to have me come in a twice a week until he got my upper spine straightened out, but that is going to  have to be postponed since I'll be out of town for a month.

Flagging has given us some activities that will help prepare us for PPS work.  Just standing on our feet for 8 to 14 hours is one.  Practicing radio procedures and hand signals is another.  Also maintaining a 360 sphere of observation and managing vehicle traffic.  A whole lot more relevant action than we got working at Walmart, although being out of the November and December weather was very nice.

The only update we have the PPS front is that our instructor, Tony Cox, said he had a surprise visit from Otis the other day.  Otis is the contact for the Nigeria contract.  Increasing unrest coupled with  changes in government over there have slowed things down a bit.  We don't have any kind of an ETA, but the fact that Otis contacted Tony is encouraging.  Given the situation over there, it might be a little scary, but we'll never go anywhere except as a group -- and an armed group at that and most likely equipped with bullet-proof vests.  We'll probably be carrying rifles, not  hand guns.  One benefit is that the worse things get over there, the more they're willing to pay.

Of course we're are anxious to hear from Omega about the St George detail they're bidding on, but so far nothing new.  I'd a lot rather do our initial tour of duty close to home and  have a chance to hone our skills and bolster our confidence before going into third world environments.  But at this point, we'll pretty much take whatever comes our way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10 Update

We didn't get any flagging on Tuesday or Wednesday bu we did get a call fairly early this afternoon for a change, to flag up at 400 N in Orem tonight at 8:30.  We went to 400 N once before, the day it snowed and we were sent home right away.  Vickie, at Strategic Staffing who called us, said there will be to other flaggers there tonight.  Based on what I saw the last time we were there I don't see where we'll use 4 flaggers, but she said it is a very busy spot.  Weatherbug forecasts lows near 20F, but shows it won't hit that until about 4:00 am so we shouldn't be in the really cold weather for all of the night.  Weatherbug hourly shows it will be about 26F at 8:00, so we certainly won't be experiencing a heat wave!  At least we have hours again and it is nice that is closer to home than the posts we got in American Fork and Lehi -- about half as far I think.

I got a call from Steve Dellos today and I have an opportunity to go work ground crew on towers with him for a month starting next week for about double what we make flagging.  I also talked with Tony about the property management job and it looks like that isn't going to  happen.  At least not anytime soon.  They didn't call me to start the last couple of days like they said they would because they were waiting to get some more clients.  Even so, I'd be starting out with only 2-3 clients, which would amount to about $120 or so a month until I could build up the client base.   That just won't cut it right now.   I plan to check back with him when I get back from the month on tower work.  The tower locations are from Grand Junction, Colorado to Filmore, Utah, so we'll be in areas that are a little milder climate than what Steve has been enduring in Montana.   The tower work might go longer than just one month, but this particular assignment will be a month long, with at least 40 hours a week paid whether we work or not.   During our off time Steve and I will be working on finding PPS work and, reviewing his TFT (Target Focus Training) videos and having him teach me.  Steve has already arranged with the tower company for us to disappear for a week or so if a PPS detail comes in, and then come back to work, so that is a good thing.  I expect we'll be working in snowy, freezing conditions most of the time, even being hundreds of miles south, because we'll be working on mountain tops.  I don't expect to be climbing towers, just doing rigging and other "grunt" work on the ground, but Steve is lending me a climbing harness just in case.  I'll have Mom run me up to Steve's parents' place in Ferron (where we went for his brother's funeral a year or so ago) and then I'll be able to ride with him so I won't have to drive.  This new job starts on Monday.  I plan to bring my old laptop along so I can update this blog while I'm "in the field" and keep up with email.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8 Update

We got called about 6:30 this morning to flag in Spanish Fork at 7:00.  We were a few minutes late, but not bad for having to get our winter gear on and drive 10-12 miles.  Good thing it wasn't in Lehi or American Fork!

Weather was pretty nice.  Sunny and calm all day, with temps getting up into the 30s again.  I think it was about 23F when we started out this morning. 

Our assignment was 300 W in Spanish Fork.  We'd flagged there once before.  It is a 3-way intersection right where 300 W goes under I-15.  They didn't have anything for us to do for an hour or so when we first got there so they said just to "keep warm".  We sat in the car until almost 10:00 when they blocked off one lane under the freeway bridge and moved a crane out into the lane to drive pilings.  Kind of interesting watching them drive the pilings from a farily good vantage point.  Some of them were doubled up.  That is, they drove one piling into the ground leaving about 4' above ground, then welded a second one on top and drove it in too.  We were all finished up and released about 4:00pm.  So we logged 8.5 hours.  We were only a couple of blocks from Taco Bell so we had a hot lunch for a change.  All in all, it wasn't a bad day.

Wildlife watch:  the neighborhood south and east of the freeway is mostly residential, except for the Nebo Animal Clinic.  Even with the animal clinic right there, the only "wildlife" I observed was one kitty cat crossing the street.  He/she was so nonchalant about it I was afraid it would get smashed before it got across, but fortunately there wasn't a lot of traffic on 300 W.  There was enough to help make the time go fairly fast without there being a lot of tension or worry.

I saw a Toyota pickup go by with an interesting customization of the Toyota Racing Division logo.  Usually it just says "TRD" but this one said "TURD".  Given the default pronunciation of "TRD", I don't think I would have chosen that for a logo.  Neither would I have chosen "SLT" that Dodge uses.  Driving a turd or a slut doesn't sound very appealing to me.  I guess I can't talk.  When we were naming computer program subroutines one one project there were functions like GET, PUT, and PUSH.  We had subroutines named GETIT, PUTIT, and PUSHIT, with the latter obviously lending itself to more than one pronunciation!

Did I tell you about my interview with Tony Dupres yesterday?  I kind of remember writing about it, but I'm not sure.  I was supposed to start today or tomorrow learning his property management business.  Obviously I didn't start today.  Don't know what will happen tomorrow.  If we get another early call for flagging, we'll probably take it and I'll just have to tell Tony I can start Thursday.   We can't really afford to turn down flagging assignments and I don't want Mom going out by herself if we can help it.

I may have another job alternative coming up too.  The company Steve Dellos works for doing towers is sending the crew back to Utah in about a week and Steve said there may be an opening in the ground crew.  It would be steady 40-hours a week, even when the weather shuts down the job site but I don't know what the hourly rate will be yet.  I would probably be rigging loads to be hoisted up the tower.  Interesting that Mom and I were both just certified in rigger signals.  I don't think the tower folks adhere to the rigger signals used by crane operators on construction sites but the signals may be helpful anyway.

We don't have any idea if PRC has any plans for us for tomorrow.  We are definitely encouraged that all of our recent assignments, including today, have come through Strategic.  It so much more convenient and a little more money than at Labor Ready.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7 Update

No flagging over the weekend nor today.  We  had left word on Strategic's on-call voicemail that we wouldn't be available today, so no surprise.  We did that because I had a meeting this afternoon about a new business opportunity.  Tony Dupres, the real estate agent friend of Mike's who sold us our house here in Payson, has invited me to take on a Property Manager position for him and his partner.  They have been developing a property management business for the last couple of years and it has gotten to the point where they need one or more full time property managers to handle the load.  It is strictly a commission based position so it will start off small, but has a lot of potential.  Someday they may even be able to franchise their unique property management model nationwide.  So, starting maybe tomorrow or Wednesday, I'll run up to his office in Pleasant Grove and start learning what to do.  The goal is that within six months I'll be handling 150 properties and making a pretty good pay.  The nice thing about it is that every "sale" generates recurring income every month for as long as the property is under management.

I drove past the Geneva Road construction site where we've been flagging and they had flaggers out there on my way up about 3:00 but they were gone when I came back a little before 5:00 so they got off earlier than we've been getting off.  Maybe because of a threatening storm that Mom and I ran into on the way home.  It is windy and cold and blowing snow and sleet, but not yielding much accumulation.  It was up to around 50 this afternoon and is still a bit above freezing now (7:00pm).   The wind has been wreaking havoc with the electricity.   We haven't lost power for any long period of time but have taken quick hits that knocked out the computer and the clocks several times this evening. 

Guess I'll wrap this up before we take another power hit and I lose what I've written.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 4 Update

Got called at 6:30 am for a 7:30 assignment back at Geneva Road.  Got there and found two other flaggers already on station.  They had crews working on both sides of the  bridge and each thought they needed their own flaggers, which they probably did.  However, Lori came by about 11:00 and sent the other team home.  For a long time Mom and I tried to cover both sides.  It doesn't work very well because there is too much of a delay in getting traffic stopped when one of the flaggers is nearly a block away from the action.  On top of that there is big steel plant in between and traffic comes out of there when we have the road blocked.  We had one guy come out of there while a big double belly-dumper was coming down off the construction site and the truck driver had to lock up his brakes coming down the dirt ramp to avoid hitting the interloper.  After that Mom checked with the crew on her side and found out they didn't really need her there anymore so she came back over where we worked before so we were standing just on either side of the ramp where the trucks come out.  The foreman on "our" side had pushed to keep the extra flaggers so we'd have people adjacent to the ramp but Lori over-ruled him.  PRC is over-budget on flagging so they're trying to cut back.  Sure won't save anything if there is an accident!

Weather wasn't too bad -- about 22F when we arrived and warmed up to 31F ,maybe even 32F in the afternoon before dropping off again.  Kind of interesting idea when it "gets up to freezing".  We got off at 6:00 pm so we logged 10.5 hours.  That gives us 27 hours for the week.  There is a slight chance we'll get called in again tonight, but I kind of doubt it. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3 Update

We didn't get called this morning until 7:30  and they needed us back at Geneva Road ASAP.  We managed to get there by about 8:30 and found the breakers were filling in for us until we could get there.  It was 11F when we arrived.  It topped out at 31F in the afternoon, then dropped back down to about 27F by the time we got released at 5:30.  It was an interesting and fairly busy day.  I got called to the other side of the freeway to flag for a second crew over there a couple of times.  That put me about a block away from where Mom was flagging.  We had several double dumpers coming down off the side of the freeway, some equipment movement, and lots of workers -- so much so that I was beginning to feel like a school crossing guard.  All in all it wasn't too bad a day.  Someone noticed Mom's snowboots so she had to change boots and the others weren't nearly as warm and they were too tight for extra socks.  She's going to pick up some new insulated steel toed boots at Walmart tonight so she'll be legal AND comfortable.

We had breakers today.  We got short bathroom break in the morning, then about 15 minutes for "lunch" between 11:00 and 12:00 -- and that was it!  Not much time to eat or to warm up.  Fortunately it was sunny today and even though it was below freezing all day -- and below 20F most of the day -- it didn't feel that cold with the sun on us.

We're not sure what is going to happen tomorrow yet.  Hopefully we'll be called back to the same location -- and, also hopefully, they'll call earlier so we don't hold anything  up.

So far we've logged only 16.5 hours this week, but that is sure better than nothing!

PPS Update:  Talked to Steve this evening.  We're still lined up for a Utah job through a Las Vegas company -- IF he gets the contract.  He also finally got confirmation that the Florida job is history (we pretty much figured that anyway).   Haven't heard anything from Frontline yet either.  Right now it looks like the Las Vegas deal is the most promising but so far it is still just talk.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2 Update

Well, nothing really new to report for today.  It is COLD outside, high of 20F predicted for day and low again around 0F for tonight.  No calls from either of our agencies for flagging today or tonight so far, but it is only about 2:30 so time-wise there is still a chance we could get called in tonight.  Those calls usually don't come until at least 5:30 or so.  However, since last night's previously scheduled assignment was canceled because of weather (0F low and breezy predicted), there probably won't be any work tonight either, since the forecast is essentially the same.  Not working is a mixed bag.  In a way, we're glad not be standing out in 0 degree weather all night, but we could use the hours.  So whether we work or not, it is a win!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1 Update

Our assignment at Geneva Road last night lasted from 9:00 pm until 4:00 am.  Temperatures started out around 31F and eventually dropped to 23F and it was quite breezy.  There was actually a Winter Storm Watch in effect from 2:00 am until 9:00 am this morning and a 50% chance of snow with up to 2" accumulation -- but all we got were some snow flurries.

We got an unexpected break about 10:30 and sat in the nice warm car until almost midnight.  We were told there were some vicious dogs loose in the neighborhood and to stay in our cars until they were controlled.  No details about the dog or dogs but I'm guessing it might have been a guard dog from Timpanogos Harley Davidson since the animal control and cops seemed to be focused right around there -- or maybe that just happened to be where the animals were spotted.

Our Hottie Toe Warmers worked pretty good for at least the 5 hours they are rated for, but by about 2:30 my toes were starting to get cold with it 23F outside.  It was around 23 most of the night.  The Hot Hands hand warmers we picked up at Walmart worked pretty well and stayed hot until after we got home.  One advantage to the hand warmers is you can take them out and re-expose them to fresh air and shake them and re-activate them.  Kind of tough to do that with toe warmers stuck to your socks inside your boots!  Another trick I used was to pull my thumbs and fingers out of the fingers of the gloves and just cradle the pad in my palms to warm my fingers and thumbs.  The pads don't fit well down into the fingers.  Guess I should look into getting some mittens.

The foreman was really glad to see us when we got there last night.  He already had both light stands set up, although he had to move one so I wouldn't be back-lighted.  He said they started their shift at 5:00 pm and could have used us there at 6:00.  Kind of hard for us to do when we didn't get called until 7:00 pm and given and ETA for 9:00 pm.  We have been asked to come back tonight at 6:00 pm.  The forecast for tonight is a low of 0F, so it is going to be a cold one!  The hourly forecast says it should be about 15F when we arrive at 6:00 and will drop to 9F by 10:00 or 11:00.  It is only 17F outside right now (at 11:30 AM!).  If the crew keeps working as long as they did last night we'll log about 10 hours tonight.

We are going to try using two Hotties on each foot tonight -- one on top of the toes and one underneath.  I wore mine on top last night, Mom put hers on the bottom.  I think she was able to "stir" hers with her toes and keep them working longer than mine did.  I know there was still heat available because mine warmed up when I took off my boots and was able to expose them to the air and mix up the stuff inside the packets a little bit.  Using two at the same time won't extend how long they last, but I'm hoping it will get our feet and our boots warmer so they'll stay warmer longer -- if nothing else, they should help against the colder temperatures tonight.

I did break down and put my ski mask on last night and it definitely kept my nose and cheeks warmer.  I'm thinking I may wear my beanie on top of my ski mask for extra insulation on my head and ears.  I figure a scarf will help with the chill on the back of my neck between the fur collar on my snowsuit and my ski mask.

I think we're going to pick up some body warmer packets to stuff inside our jackets or pants if necessary tonight.  Mom and I both didn't really feel cold (except for our feet again) but our backs did get a little cool in the breeze at 23F.  At this point I can only imagine what it will be like as it approaches 0F.  I think it is a good idea to have some options.  We're already dressed warm enough that we won't face frostbite or hypothermia, but it sure can get uncomfortable when you get cold and can't get in the car to get warm!  And then muscles start to tighten up and hurt too.  Not fun!  I noticed my back and shoulders were getting pretty tight and tired last night from constantly crunching my shoulders up.  Part of that was a deliberate attempt to keep my fur collar up around my neck but a lot of it was just an involuntary reaction to the cold.  Mom's back was hurting her too last night.  I figure a body warmer at the small of the back will not only warm our backs but warm the blood going down into our legs and feet too.  We'll get this figured out, just like we got the hot summer days figured out.

P.S.  PRC canceled all flagging assignments tonight, citing weather so we weren't stuck out in 0F cold.    We did get the body warmer paks so we'll be prepared for the next one.  I also got some mittens -- the kind hunters use that are made so you can open up the palms.  They are essentially a pair of gloves with cut-off fingers and a mitten that flips up over the naked fingers.  Unfortunately, it was the last pair at Sportsman's Warehouse so we'll have to keep looking to get some for Mom.  She has some knit mittens of the same design, but they won't be warm enough by themselves for flagging.  This style of mittens might be useful for PPS work in cold weather too.

 Latest weather forecast is showing 2F tonight instead of 0F and 2F tomorrow night instead of 7F.  If tomorrow night is going to be as cold as tonight there probably won't be any flagging tomorrow night.  We have let Labor Ready know we are available for flagging tomorrow during the day since we won't be up all night tonight.  We did get a call from them around 8:30 with a flagging opportunity in Spanish Fork, but since we'd been out until 4:00 this morning, we weren't able to take it.  So we don't have a clue what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31 Update

We didn't get any calls until 7:00 pm so we're headed out to Geneva Road again tonight to start at 9:00.  The call came through Strategic Staffing so it will be at the better rate.  Forecast for tonight is lows near 20, but the hourly forecast doesn't show us getting that low until 6:00 am and by then we should be  home and in bed.

We ran out to Walmart and picked up some hand warmers so our hands and feet should be be taken care of tonight.  I'm debating whether to wear my ski mask instead of my beanie to try to keep my nose warm.  I've been carrying the ski mask in the pocket of my snowsuit but haven't been uncomfortable enough to put it on, but it hasn't been as cold as tonight's forecast.   Not sure how it will fit with my safety glasses -- or how they will fit with it on.  I'll have to give it a try and see. 

We talked with the foreman the other night when we were sent home because they were closing down the site for the night about taking a break when his guys take theirs and he agreed that would be OK.  At least we can look forward to getting off our feet and into a warm car at least once during the shift.  And we have a thermos of hot chocolate for nutrition, hydration, and warmth once we get to the car. 

Better go get ready....

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28 Update

We were somewhat surprised and greatly pleased that we got called by Strategic again this afternoon to flag at Geneva Road tonight at 7:00 pm.  But when we got there, the foreman said they had some survey problems and they needed the crew elsewhere so they wouldn't be working tonight.  He called to see if they needed us anyplace else and they didn't so we were sent home.  Nice that we still get paid for 4 hours just for showing up. 

It gave us a chance to stop by Costco and buy some "toe warmers".  They didn't have any hand warmers, but we can probably use the "toe warmers" in our gloves if we need to.

We don't know if there will be any weekend flagging available, but we have let it be known we are available on Saturday if they need us.

January 27 Update

Today was interesting.  First off, we went to our railroad re-certification class at PRC.  Even though PRC is mainly concerned with the freeway, some locations involve RR crossings too, so all PRC flaggers have to be certified by the UTA (Utah Transit Authority) and the UPRR.  We had to do the PRC Orientation last year to start with PRC, but the UTA/UPRR had to be renewed for 20111. Our class this time also included training on rigger signals (the hand signs between the guys that rig the loads and the guys that operate the cranes.  So now we have added a rigger signals sticker to our hard hats.  Not that we're likely to be doing any signally, but knowing the signals may be helpful when we're flagging while they're moving loads with cranes.

Then we got called about 5:30 pm to see if we wanted to work Geneva Road again at 7:00 pm so we were flagging last night from 7:00 pm to 2:00 am this morning.  Not a lot of activity,just a few PRC work trucks in and out of the site and a few trips across the road with a Bobcat to move materials -- mostly metal grates that reinforce the concrete foundations for the retaining walls.

Weather wasn't too bad, all things considered.  Not much wind.  Started out about 31 degrees and dropped to 27 before we released.   We got a really good look at something I don't think I'd seen before:  freezing fog.  All the air around us glistened with ice particles.

It took them about 1 1/2 hours to get set up so we didn't even start flagging until after 8:30.  Two other flaggers showed up.  They had been assigned at 1600 N, which is usually the entrance for the trucks that exit at Geneva but there were no trucks running last night so they got sent home.  We had worked with one of them before when we flagged under the bridge overnight at 100 S in American Fork.  He offered to come give us a break if no breakers showed up.  We took advantage of his offer so we got a half  hour break about 11:00 for Mom and 11:30 for me.  Sure made the night more bearable.

We are finding that our cold weather gear pretty much does the job.  I've been wearing a snowmobile suit and Mom has been wearing her snowboard pants and coat.  Beanies under our hardhats keep our ears warm.  I have been bringing along a full ski mask but haven't had to use it yet, although last night my nose was getting cold.  I think I might add a scarf so I can wrap it around the bottom of my face and over my nose when my nose starts freezing.  We keep pretty warm for the most part -- but sometimes our  hands and feet still get cold.  We don't think our battery-operated electric socks do anything, but as insulated socks, they at least help.  The socks use a single "D" cell each, and that may simply not be enough to generate much heat.  I think my battery-operated gloves worked a little bit, but even they were disappointing.  The gloves run on 3 AAA batteries and are rated to last about 1  hour of continuous use so we have to use the sparingly for what is expected to be an 8 - 10 hour shift.   I'm thinking of looking into getting some of the "toe warmer" or "hand warmer" packets.  They are air-activated chemical heat pads.  I've seen discarded packets on several job sites.  Using them in gloves would be easy, but getting them into our boots is probably something  best done before we leave home.  That might be just fine since some of them are rated to last 6 hours.  Even reaching my boots to tie them is a chore when I'm all bundled up in the snowsuit.  It is very bulky and inhibits bending of arms, legs, and torso.

Mom called Labor Ready's "on call" number last night when we got home to let them know we wouldn't be available for an early morning assignment today, but would be available in the afternoon or again for night-time flagging.  We haven't heard anything yet, so, unless we get tagged for another night-time shift, we probably won't be working again until Monday.

Last night's call had come through Strategic Staffing.  Our class yesterday was also through Strategic Staffing  so all 11.0 hours we logged  yesterday (4 for the class,7.0 at Geneva Road) are are the better rate of pay.

PPS Update:  Steve and I have been on the phone and exchanging emails with the head of Omega Protection in Las Vegas.  They provide Executive Protection and run a training class we'd like to take one of these days.  He "accidentally" called Steve yesterday so Steve called him back today.  Omega is currently working on a contract in Utah and, if they get the contract, it will go to our team!  Of course, until we go "wheels up" it is all just talk, but there is at least another prospect for us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26 Update

We called in at 6:00 am this morning and were given an assignment for noon in American Fork.  About twenty minutes later, Lori from PRC called.  She  apparently had an earlier assignment for us but somehow it didn't get communicated to Labor Ready.  Later we found that they book most of their jobs through Labor Ready in Sandy and it is kind of the end of the list that makes it to Provo.  Lori suggested we sign up in Sandy -- but that would mean a whole lot more driving.  We are going to see if can get things worked out so we do most of our work through Strategic Staffing, whom we started with last summer.  With them we didn't have to stop by their office to get our "tickets" each morning and they did direct deposits.  All we had to do was turn in all our tickets for the week by the following Monday at 5:00pm.  On top of that, they pay about 10% more than Labor Ready.  But PRC has had some administrative problems with Strategic and reduced their  usage of them so we don't know if that is going to work or not.  A lot of times last fall, Lori or Cynthia at PRC would call us with our assignments and all we had to do was let Strategic know where we were going and then show up where PRC wanted us.  Hopefully we can get back into that mode.

We were scheduled to flag on the frontage road at 100 W in American Fork at noon.  We have flagged there several times before.  We actually got there about 11:30 and found out the foreman had called for flaggers to be there at 12:30, but Lori had changed the time to make sure folks could get there and had time to find the place.  We sat around waiting for the foreman and crew to show up and then Lori called us about 1:30 to let us know the crew had been pulled off on some other jobs and she sent us home.  So we 4 hours pay for sitting around for 2 hours. 

Strategic called us to see if we could attend a re-certification class at PRC tomorrow so we'll be there from 7:00 - 11:00 am tomorrow.  The re-certification is for PRC so it applies to both Strategic and Labor Ready.  We may or may not get any flagging tomorrow afternoon or evening.  We do get paid for the 4 hour class.  Labor Ready had talked to us about the need for re-certification but didn't have any openings in their allotment of spots in the classes -- and she described it as a 2-hour refresher course, so we might have lost a whole day's flagging for 2 hours, although we might still have gotten the 4-hour "short pay" minimum.

Weather was fairly pleasant, somewhere around 40.  Tonight it is supposed to be down in the 15-20 degree range with highs tomorrow around 40 again.   So far it looks like we sat out the really cold days at Walmart!
Lori said they were working on New Years Day and it was windy and 5 below zero!  Glad we weren't out in that!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25 Update

Well, today has been interesting.  First off, we were late getting to Labor Ready this morning (hit some unusual traffic on the freeway) and we had already been replaced.  So we left to do some shopping and go home.  When we got home we found Labor Ready had tried calling us and had another assignment for us to flag in Orem.  So we scooted back up to Provo in a snowstorm to pick up our "tickets".  The forecast for today was a 40% chance of snow.  We had seen a few flurries and a little "snizzle" but it didn't start to seriously snow until we were getting back in the car to go flagging.  By the time we got to Provo there was about 1" accumulation and cars and trucks were sliding all over the place.  Sure thankful for all wheel drive on the MDX!  There was one 6-car incident along the right side of the freeway just before we got to Provo.  Our assignment was at 400 South in Orem.  We had flagged the RR crossing on 400 S last fall (it was the one near the Hawaiian Ice stand!  Funny thing, no ice stand this time of year.).  Just about the time we got set up an "on station" the PRC foreman came over to tell us the trucks weren't going to be running because of the slick roads and we were released.  So we got "short hours" -- paid for 4  hours just for showing up.  We found out that Lori knew they were shutting down while we were still driving from Labor Ready to the site but let us go ahead and check in so we'd get paid.    So now we're home and the snow continues to come and go -- snow flurries are what was forecast for this afternoon.  We may light a fire in the fireplace and watch a Redbox movie.

We don't know what is in store for tomorrow.  If they get more snow, flagging opportunities may be limited.

We got an email from Mike with the URL for their new blog:  Southworthit.blogspot.com.  Check it out.  I think Heidi has written most of it and she has done a wonderful job.  I'm sure you'll all really enjoy it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24 Update

We finally got called for flagging again today.  We were on Geneva Road in Orem -- same place I was overnight a while back.  Turned out there wasn't a lot of activity, but there was some.  It was about 25 degrees out there when we arrived at 7:30 am and my feet started getting cold.  My left foot was colder than my right and I discovered the zipper on the left leg of my snowsuit was up about 3".  Wouldn't have thought it would make that much difference with  insulated boots and insulated socks, but it was noticeable.  I zipped the leg all the way and then both feet were about equally cold.  We could actually feel the difference when it warmed up a couple of degrees  and by the time it got up to 29 my feet weren't cold any more.  It eventually got up to about 44 degrees, almost too warm for the way I was dressed (snowsuit).  I think I actually felt better out there than I did on the blistering August days last summer.  And for sure we felt colder the day we got caught in the rain!   For one thing, I didn't ever feel sleepy like I did on hot days. 

We had two different breakers came to make sure we were getting enough breaks.  The breaks weren't long -- just bathroom breaks and lunch was only 20 minutes (by being less than 30 minutes we get it as a paid break instead of going off the clock for half an hour).  Larry was handling northern Utah County and Carrie was handling southern Utah County.  Turns out Geneva Road is the crossover point.  They came up with the idea of meeting in the middle so we could both get our lunch break at the same time.  Usually, there is only one breaker and we have to take turns.

Both the gals that schedule the flaggers for PRC drove by us today and waved and gave us big smiles.  I think we still have a good reputation with them.  Cynthia is the boss, and Lori, her mom, works for her!   They're both really cool to work with.

We think we'll be called again tomorrow, but it hasn't been confirmed yet.  We're supposed to just show up at Labor Ready about 7:00 am so they can hand  us out "tickets" (time cards) as soon as PRC calls in their requests for the day.  Lori should be asking for us by name.   One thing we found that is disappointing is that Labor Ready doesn't pay quite as well as Strategic Staffing -- almost 10% less!  But we may get more hours so the net may turn out to be better.   Labor Ready also pays every day so we immediately have funds for tomorrow's fuel and flagging supplies. 

Suffice it to say, we'd a lot rather be doing PPS someplace warm for good money than standing around in the cold for peanuts.  Still working on that, but nothing solid happening yet and we are grateful to have jobs at all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 22, Update

Nothing new to report.  No flagging over the weekend, but we're hopeful we'll be back on the list starting tomorrow morning.  Weather is looking pretty good if we do get called.  None of that 2 degree stuff in the near forecast!  Even overnight is showing in the 20s, so night flagging wouldn't be brutal, just chilly.  I expect we'll be on days though, 'cause that is the shift the gal who will be scheduling us works and days are showing 30s and 40s for  at least the next week.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 21 Update

Still no call for flagging.  We learned that PRC has been having some administrative problems with Strategic Staffing and so is mostly using Labor Ready these days.  Lori suggested we sign up with Labor Ready so we did so this afternoon.  Hopefully we'll be back on the job next week.  One advantage to being signed up with both companies is that we won't get cut short as we approach 40 hours.  The contract each company has with PRC limits their flagers to 40 hours a week -- but when we get close to the limit, we can have them call us out through the other company and keep going.  When working only with Strategic we sometimes got cut off at 32-36 hours because they won't send you out unless you have at least 10 hours available.  One of the breakers we knew said he was logging about 60 hours a week by working through both Strategic Staffing and Labor Ready.  Not sure we really want to log that many hours an a regular basis, but at least getting in a full five days a week, even at 8-10 hours a day, would be nice on the paycheck.

Weather is still rather balmy for this time of year -- highs in the 40s and predicted to remain there for several more days. 

Guess you all read Jerry's update about his accident.  He is lucky -- or blessed -- to be alive!  Wait until you see the pictures, if  you haven't already.  It certainly could have been a lot worse.  He was hauling a tanker full of diesel fuel.  And people try to tell us PPS work will be dangerous!  I'd be willing to bet that statistically, flaggers are at greater risk than bodyguards, especially during the winter when the roads are icy. 

Speaking of PPS, there is nothing new to report there.  Steve and I are tracking the leads he found in Arizona and Nevada, but there isn't any news yet. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19 Update

Hi guys,

As we expected, no flagging today.  Hopefully we'll get a call tonight and be flagging tomorrow.

Weather has been unusually mild for this time of year -- in the upper 30s again today, in spite of a winter storm warning in effect  until 3:00 pm today.  High tomorrow shows 35 and 38 for Friday, so it shouldn't be too cold if we do go out flagging for the next couple of days.

In spite of several warm days in a row we still have snow covering most of the yard.  The paddock is getting pretty mucky where the horses tromped down the snow and it has melted.  A day or so ago we got most of the snow that was piled up on the yard side of the barn moved over onto the garden so it won't melt and run into the barn.

I got an email our Bishop forwarded from a gal who says her company has 18 IT openings so I submitted my resume.  Got back an acknowledgment, but it was little more than a form email. I'll probably be "over qualified" again.  The announcement email included an invitation for recent graduates to apply so they're probably looking for younger, less-experienced people, less-expensive people, even though I would gladly work for programmer wages if they would let me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18 Update

High guys,

No flagging again today.  Mom called Laurie, our contact at PRC but when she reached her today she'd already placed her order for tomorrow so we won't be flagging tomorrow either, unless something unplanned comes up.  However, she was pleased to hear we're available again and will probably ask for us for Thursday and Friday.  Weatherbug says it won't be as warm as it has been the last couple of days (darn!) -- it was 55 yesterday and 45 today.  There is a winter storm warning in affect until 3:00 pm tomorrow with 1-3 inches of snow expected, then highs in the 30s for Thursday and Friday.  Our friend, Steve Dellos, is back working on radio towers in Montana and said it was -3 where he is today!  Glad I'm not out in that!

Nothing new from Frontline.  Steve had a couple of new contacts, one in Arizona and one in Nevada.  Neither of them are as promising as Frontline, but we have our names out to a couple more companies and both say they have work coming up and are hiring.  Most of the east coast outfits we've talked to say have more agents than they can keep busy, so it looks like being out here we may be in the right place at the right time for a change.

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 17 Update

Hi guys,

We did not get called for flagging today.  I figure that is because it is Martin Luther King's birthday and since PRC is running on a government contract, they have to honor the holiday.  Just as well.  Mom needed at least one day off between jobs -- yeah, like she EVER takes a day off.  For example, this morning she was out shoveling snow away from the barn to where I could scoop it up and haul it away with the tractor.

Now that I'm learning to blog, I followed the recommendations some of you kids have made and started a blog for RVs and OHVs (http://rvsandohv.blogspot.com) and signed up with Adsense so Google and put ads on my blog.  If anyone reads it and clicks on the ads, I could actually get paid!  I doubt if I'll generate enough interest for it to be profitable, but it is kind of fun doing it and if nothing else, helps be remember and organize my knowledge of RVs and OHVs.

Hopefully we will get called tomorrow morning for flagging.  Weather wise it shouldn't be too bad. It was up to 55 here today (forcast high was 50).  Tomorrow is forecast for 40, so that isn't so bad either.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15 Update

I got called in again for flagging last night.  I had sent an email to Strategic Staffing to let them know Mom and would be available next week and got an almost immediate phone call to work last night.  They even called back to see if Mom could work too.
I was at Geneva Road/I-15 where Mom and I flagged last fall one time for moving a crane.  Last night we were mostly flagging for big double side-dumpers leaving the construction site.  Weather wasn't too bad.  It was around 32 when I got there at 7:00 pm and had only dropped to 29 when we were released about 1:30 am.  Never had to use the battery socks or gloves.  We had three flaggers so we were able to rotate, doing about 1 hour on and a half hour off, so we got a chance to get in the car and get warm after each hour standing around doing nothing.  No trucks showed up until about 11:30 and then there were only 2 of them.  We had another batch of 3 just before we were released so it wasn't exactly rush hour.  But the time does go kind of slowly when there isn't anything to do -- and just standing around in the cold isn't the best way to keep warm!  They were building a retaining wall and filling in behind it.  The retaining wall is made of huge pre-cast concrete panels.  Looks to me like the only thing that keeps the wall from falling over are long steel straps they bury in the dirt behind it.  The panels have notched edges so they lock together when put into place.  It as interesting watching "the boys play with their blocks".
Wildlife watch:  yeah, right!  In the freezing dark!  Not even pussy cat or a bird anywhere in sight.  And not even any pedestrians or even any interesting drivers.  One jerk blew his horn all they past both flaggers.  Never did quite figure out what that was all about.  We weren't even flagging at the time or in his way, just standing at our stations waiting for trucks or equipment to come.
Driving  home was a bit of a trip. It was VERY foggy!   I haven't seen fog like that in years.  I only hit one open patch for maybe a  half mile before I got to Payson, then it started clearing  up again just as I got to the off-ramp.  It was weird, looking back toward the freeway, the fog lay like a big roll of insulation right over the freeway.  It was deeper than the famous Tule Fog of the Central Valley in California, but still hugged the ground and was pea-soup thick.
Don't know if I'll get called in again tonight.  They do work on weekends, but not as much as during the week, so I might not be needed.  One thing in favor of my working is that I don't have very many hours this week, and those who have been working all week have probably hit their 40 hour limit.
Per Kristen's suggestion, I have created this blog.  This is a posting of the email update I sent out earlier today just to see what the "daily" updates are going to look like.
Guess that's about it for now.

Getting Started


Just getting started.  This blog will contain updates for Lemont & Marilyn Southworth, intended primarily for family members and close friends to share ongoing activities.  Hopefully we'll keep you up to date and we will try to keep it interesting.  Suggestions are welcome!