I'm Back

It's been a month since I last posted here. During my absence, I was working 6-days a week 12-hours a day. Obviously, that does not leave much time for writing or blogging. In case you're curious, here's what I did during the last month:

I work at a nuclear power plant and we shut the unit down every 2 years for refueling and to perform maintenance on items that cannot be accessed while the plant is running. Prior to taking my current job position, I was a technician in the instrumentation and controls department. During outages, we would perform many duties, some of them I no longer enjoy. Dressing out in an anti-contamination suit and climbing up a 60 foot ladder in 90 degree heat combined with high humidity is no longer something I want to do. I did it for many years and now I have a desk job.

My duties during an outage are to support the needs of the OCC. That's the Outage Control Center where a group of skilled managers direct the activities to keep the outage schedule on-track. My normal day began with getting up at 0200 and arriving at my desk around 0300 each morning. We use a collection of computer programs that read our schedule and generate a plethora of reports for use in the OCC. It is my job to assist in making sure these reports are generated without any issues. I also have a series of reports that I have developed that I run throughout the day to keep the OCC staff informed.

I'm also available to provide anyone in the OCC with ad-hoc data-mining requests. I also run a series of programs I developed that others in the organization use and it is my job to ensure that these programs continue to run without any issues. When problems arise, I am there to correct the code or figure out why the data is not being processed in a timely manner.

When I'm not actively supporting the OCC, I spend my time writing Microsoft Access database programs for the Work Management department I work for as well as other departments throughout the company. My major project this outage was the completion of the conversion of a Visual Basic 6 program I'd written in 2003 for our simulator group. This program tracks the configuration of the simulator down to the location of every wire as well as tracking all work that needs to be performed to keep the simulator in compliance and functioning properly. I am happy to report that the simulator program (called SCMS or Simulator Configuration Management System) has been successfully converted to Microsoft Access and is currently being tested.

We also broke a record during this outage. The plant was offline for 29 days 10 hours and 41 minutes making this the shortest outage in the plant's history. Having worked there for 30 years, I was very happy to see this record being made.

Now that the outage is over, I can get back to working on writing. But writing might not be as high a priority as before. With the possibility that the plant I have worked at for so long could be closed, I decided I need to boost my computer skills in case I need to seek employment elsewhere. I'm an expert Microsoft Access programmer but having just that one skill is not enough these days. I have started learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I also plan on becoming more experienced with how to program Microsoft Excel and Word.

Peacekeeper Pathogen is still being proofed by my wife and I hope to have it ready for a second proof by my friend in Germany in under a month. I have a preliminary cover but after having it peer reviewed by other authors I'm going to ask my artist if she can't make a few changes. In the meantime, I plan on working on my next book. It's a sequel to Off Course.

Time to get back to work!