NR&C Vol 24, No. 5 (NUREG/BR-0066) - April 30, 2008
In This Issue :
- Around the Agency
- All-Employee Meeting
- Annual Awards Ceremony
- Commissioner Kristine Svinicki
- Education Grants
- Hatch Act Reminders
- Photo Gallery
- New Reactors
- Around Headquarters
- Comings and Goings
- Employees of the Month
- EWRA News/Travel
- Mark the Date
- NRC People
- Retiree Notes
- RideSharing Report
Around the Agency
The agency's annual All-Employees Meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 27.
This year's meeting, the 17th in the series, will begin at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. It will be held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, across Rockville Pike from Headquarters. Employees in the Regions, at the Technical Training Center in Chattanooga, and at resident sites will be able to participate electronically. Those at Headquarters who cannot attend will be able to view the proceedings on television monitors in elevator lobbies.
The annual All-Employees Meetings provide an opportunity for the Chairman and Commissioners to reflect on the agency's accomplishments of the past year, discuss the challenges ahead, and answer employees' questions.
This All-Employees Meeting will be the second for Chairman Dale Klein, who took office in July 2006, and the first for Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, who took office earlier this month.
The meeting will begin with opening statements by the Chairman and other Commissioners. Employees will then be able to ask questions from the floor. In addition, employees will be able to submit questions in writing that will be read by a crew of volunteers. Those at other locations will be able to submit questions by telephone or fax.
The first NRC All-Employees Meeting was held in July 1991, and since then, All-Employees Meetings have been held almost annually. The first two were held at hotels, and subsequent meetings were held under tents on The Green, between One and Two White Flint North. Last year, with the completion of the new Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, the meeting was moved there.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has scheduled its 31st Annual Awards Ceremony for Monday, June 2. The ceremony will be held that afternoon at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
Those to be honored will represent the full spectrum of agency employees, from the various Offices, Regions, and the Technical Training Center; from technical and support staffs; and from many grade levels. They will be receiving Presidential Executive Rank Awards, as well as NRC Distinguished and Meritorious Service Awards.
The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m., preceded by a private reception for award recipients, their personal guests, and agency senior management. All employees are invited to attend the reception following the ceremony.
Commissioner Kristine Svinicki was sworn in at a ceremony at Headquarters earlier this month. The ceremony took place in the Commissioners' Conference Room on the 18th floor of One White Flint North.
Those attending included the other three serving NRC Commissioners, senior agency managers, and a number of Commissioner Svinicki's friends and family members.
After the swearing in, Commissioner Svinicki said, "I am pleased today to begin my service at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As the agency continues its vigilant oversight of 104 operating nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, the agency also expects to receive additional new reactor applications in the coming years. I am eager to be a part of this challenging and exciting period in the agency's history and am committed fully to contributing to the continued success of the Commission in fulfilling its obligations to the Nation."
Commissioner Svinicki was nominated for the position by President George W. Bush last June, and her appointment was approved by the Senate March 14. She is filling the seat vacated by former Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield, whose second term expired last June 30. Commissioner Svinicki's term will run until June 30, 2012.
Since 2005, Ms. Svinicki has been a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee for the Committee's former Chairman, Senator John Warner of Virginia, and its current ranking Republican, Senator John McCain of Arizona. In that position, she has worked on defense science and technology programs, as well as atomic energy defense activities of the Energy Department, including nuclear weapons and environmental management programs with a collective budget of $25 billion. She has worked on Capitol Hill since 1997.
Prior to that time, she was a nuclear engineer in the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology. Her Energy Department career began in 1990 and included nuclear engineering positions in the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management and the Idaho Operations Office. Before that she was an energy engineer for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
Commissioner Svinicki earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan in 1988. She is a member of the American Nuclear Society and served two terms on the ANS Special Committee on Nuclear Non-Proliferation. She has served as a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Task Force on Global Nuclear Materials Management and as an Expert Advisory Panel Member to the NRC on assessing the future of regulatory research needs. She was selected as a Stennis Congressional Fellow of the 108th Congress (2003-2004).
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced nuclear education grant opportunities for trade school scholarships, undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and faculty development grants to qualified academic institutions for FY 2008.
Congress authorized the agency to provide $15 million in grants for support of education in nuclear science, technology, and engineering to develop a workforce capable of supporting the design, construction and operation, and regulation of commercial nuclear facilities, and the safe handling of nuclear materials.
NRC's Nuclear Education Grants provide funding for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, trade school scholarships, and faculty development grants. The exact amount of funds that NRC may recommend for grants is determined in pre-award negotiations between the applicant and the agency. NRC only awards grants directly to accredited U.S. institutions of higher education and does not award individual scholarships or fellowships.
More information about the grants is available at Grants.gov, the central storehouse for information on Federally funded grant programs.
This year's Presidential campaign is generating considerable interest, but Federal employees need to remember that the Hatch Act places certain restrictions on their political activity at work.
The Hatch Act prescribes the rules governing partisan political activities of Federal employees. (Partisan pertains to most elections, generally those where candidates run as Democrats or Republican. Hence it does not cover non-partisan elections, such as some local school board elections, where no political parties are involved.)
contribute to a candidate or party
solicit or accept contributions for partisan candidates or parties.
have a bumper sticker on your vehicle that's parked in the NRC garage or on an NRC lot
have any other political signs on the vehicle, including a decal
engage in political activities on your own time (except for members of the Senior Executive Service) when you're not on government property
promote any candidate at NRC. You can't distribute campaign material in the building. You can't display any partisan political material, even in your own office, or at any time while you are on official duty, in a government uniform, or in a government building or vehicle. Prohibited political material includes posters, signs, brochures, decals, pictures, or buttons.
Employees also cannot use any other NRC resources for political purposes. That includes an NRC vehicle, computer, email, phone, or fax. Federal employees in other agencies have been disciplined for sending emails on Government computers that advocated a political party or candidate. For example, a Federal employee was suspended for 60 days for sending an email from a Federal building to more than 300 individuals describing a candidate for Congress in highly favorable terms and strongly encouraging attendance at a party for that candidate.
Members of the Senior Executive Service cannot take an active part in a partisan election, although they can vote, make contributions, and attend fundraisers and political rallies.
You can read more about the Hatch Act in NRC Management Directive 7.10. If you have specific questions, you can contact John Szabo in the Office of the General Counsel, 301-415-1610, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has expanded the photo gallery on its public web site to allow users to easily find and download high-quality photographs and other images related to agency activities.
While the photo gallery is intended primarily for use by journalists, students, and researchers, it is available to everyone who has an interest in how the NRC protects people and the environment.
The link to the photo gallery is available on the lower right side of the NRC's homepage, or directly at the Photos & Video page. Once there, users can search through the gallery by key words or through a menu of categories and subcategories.
The Office of Public Affairs is always looking for new photos, so if you have any photos that might be appropriate, please call OPA at 301-415-8200 or email OPA@nrc.gov.
Additional new Combined License applications have arrived at Headquarters.
Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Inc., and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co./Santee Cooper have each submitted a Combined License application for two Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000) pressurized-water reactors.
The Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Inc. units have been designated as Vogtle Electric Generating Plant Units 3 and 4. They would be built at the Vogtle site in Burke County, Georgia.
The South Carolina Electric & Gas Co./Santee Cooper units have been designated as V.C. Summer Nuclear Station Units 2 and 3. They would be built at the V.C. Summer site in Fairfield County, South Carolina.
These are the fourth and fifth Combined License applications referencing the AP1000 design. The AP1000 is a Westinghouse 1100-megawatt electric pressurized-water reactor design the NRC certified in 2006. The NRC accepted Westinghouse's application to amend the AP1000 design in January.
The Director of the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research recently hosted a French regulators' visit to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory.
RES Director Brian Sheron hosted Jacques Repussard, Director General of the French Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire, and members of his staff.
The NRC and the U. S. nuclear utility industry rely on fire models pioneered and maintained by NIST for performing fire hazards analysis in nuclear power plant applications. IRSN performs a similar mission in France.&
The visit enabled the IRSN visitors to gain an understanding of how NIST develops and maintains the U. S. models. The IRSN visitors were able to view a fire test being performed for fire-model validation. In addition, Dr. Kevin McGrattan of NIST provided an overview of the work NIST performed exploring the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
SBCR Hosts Procurement Fair
The Office of Small Business and Civil Rights recently hosted a Small Business Procurement Fair at Headquarters. It was held in the exhibit area off the lobby in Two White Flint North.
The fair provided an opportunity for NRC staff members to meet with representatives from service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The businesses showcased products and services as well as discussed how their businesses can support new contract opportunities with the NRC. The firms participating represented various business areas, including information technology, nuclear engineering, technical and engineering assistance, licensing support, regulatory analysis, administrative support, management consulting, and training.
Those speaking during the brief opening ceremony were Bruce Mallett, Deputy Executive Director for Reactor and Preparedness Programs; Corenthis Kelley, Director of the Office of Small Business and Civil Rights; and Diana Strong, Small Business Program Manager, SBCR.
Center To Hold Annual Auction
The Headquarters Child Development Center will hold its Tenth Annual Benefit Silent Auction on May 7 in the exhibit area off the Two White Flint North lobby.
The theme of this year's auction is "Cruising into Spring." Items to be auctioned include jewelry, tickets (to shows, museums, theme parks, sporting events, etc.), rafting trips, dance lessons, and much, much more!
The auction benefits the tuition assistance program and educational development at the Georgetown Hill Early School NRC Campus. Last year's auction raised $8,000; this year, the Child Development Center Board of Directors hopes to raise more than $12,000.
Headquarters employees can stop by the exhibit area throughout the Auction Day to see the wide variety of auction items for this year's auction and place their bids on sheets placed next to each item. In previous years, the end of the day saw fierce bidding competition for many items. However, last year a "best and final bid" option alleviated that competition and, by popular demand, it will be available again this year.
To use the "best and final bid" option, you can indicate on the form provided the highest amount you are willing to pay for an item, seal it in the envelope provided, and place the envelope under the bid sheet. At the end of the Auction Day, if the amount on your "best and final bid" form is higher than the last amount on the bid sheet, you will win the item at the last bid amount plus $5.
The all-volunteer Board of Directors administers the tuition assistance program that provides partial scholarships to families in need, to offset the cost of tuition expenses for children attending Georgetown Hill Early School at NRC. Funds for the needs-based program come from the NRC and from activities such as the Silent Auction.
Members of the Board are elected by the parents of students at the NRC campus. The Board's functions also include overseeing the contract with the school provider and serving as liaison between the provider and the NRC.
While parents of students and prospective parents are welcome to speak to the Board at any time, the Silent Auction is a particularly convenient time to meet Board members and ask questions. Members of the Board will be available from noon until 1 p.m. that day. Additionally, those interested can direct any questions to one of the Board members listed below or email email@example.com.
The Board members are
Robert Lewis, President, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-3340
Jennifer Golder, Vice-President, email@example.com, 415-5807
George Tartal, Secretary, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-0016
Mary Bittle Koenick, Treasurer, email@example.com
Steve Koenick, Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-1239
Larry Pittiglio, Director, email@example.com, 415-1435
Lorna Pini Kipfer, Director, lornaPini.firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-4065
Sheryl Burrows, Director, email@example.com, 415-6086
Shana Helton, Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 492-3284
Comings and Goings
Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel: Kenneth Mossman, administrative judge; Paul Ryerson, administrative judge.
Office of Administration: Aaron Alvarado, contract specialist; Gary Simpler, facilities security specialist.
Office of the Executive Director for Operations: Patrick Howard, Chief Information Security Officer.
Office of the General Counsel: Neil Jensen, consultant.
Office of Information Services: Ray Hardy, IT security specialist.
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards: Vivian Gallardy, secretary.
Office of New Reactors: Sheila Bunter, secretary; Richard Daniel, technical assistance project manager; Joseph Demarshall, reactor operations engineer; George Georgiev, senior materials engineer; William Gunter, planning and scheduling analyst; Shannon King, secretary; Shie-Jeng Peng, reactor systems engineer; Tung Truong, electronic engineer.
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation: Richard Crlenjak, consultant; Etoy Hylton, licensing assistant; Mary King, management analyst; John Shedlosky, consultant.
Office of Small Business and Civil Rights: Linda Jackson, assistant to the Director.
Region I: Richard Lauden, health physicist.
Region IV: Danny Matthews, management and program analyst.
Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards: Jimmy Bell, consultant; Bruce Marsh, consultant; Raymond Wymer, consultant.
Office of the Executive Director for Operations: Lars Solander, senior staff assistant (retired).
Office of the General Counsel: Jonathan Rund, attorney.
Office of Human Resources: Jude Himmelberg, human resources specialist (retired).
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards: Allen Hansen, senior thermal engineer (retired).
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation: William Bateman, Chief, materials and chemical engineering branch (retired); Pao-Tsin Kuo, Director, Division of License Renewal (retired).
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research: Mabel Lee, Director, Program Management, Policy Development and Analysis Staff (retired).
Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response: Ida Susan Solandar, technical assistant for communications (retied).
Region I: Joseph Sullivan, operations engineer.
Region II: Gordon Williams, resident inspector.
Offices Name Employees of the Month
Office of the Chief Financial Officer
Her award citation from Acting Chief Financial Officer James Dyer said, "During the month of January, Rosalyn Jones performed in the capacity of back-up for a number of employees who were out of the office for various reasons. She simultaneously performed as back-up for the System Analyst, the License Fee Billing Analyst, while at the same time performing her own duties. In addition, she assisted in Performing Part 170 Fee Certification Program Reviews with the NRC Gatekeeper.
"Rosalyn is always willing to provide a helping hand to support the goals of the team. She is knowledgeable and skilled in many of the functions performed by the License Fee Team and continues to learn new duties in order to increase her overall knowledge of the Part 170 and Part 171 Fees."
Office of Information Services
In her award citation, Linda was described as "instrumental in helping to keep ICOD on track and organized in its daily activities. She is always willing to step up and help out any way she can. For example, recently, Ms. Harmon offered to help the Outlook Migration team assemble Outlook user packets for staff recently migrated to Outlook; she has created over 1000 packets. This was above and beyond her normal duties, and it was tremendously helpful to the Outlook Migration Team in ICOD."
Meg's award citation said she was selected, "because she has demonstrated outstanding customer service in responding to OIS training needs. She was a major contributor to the NRC Information Technology Project Management Training and Certification Program acquisition process. She also managed the acquisition and delivery of two high-quality training courses for OIS staff, 'Presentation Skills' and 'Business and Technical Writing.' In addition, Meg recently provided additional acquisition support to the OIS divisions."
Space Remains on EWRA Fall Trips
Some space still remains on the two Employees Welfare and Recreation Association fall trips, but if you want to take part, you should act quickly.
The first, departing in October, will go to Ireland, and the second, departing in November, will visit the South of France and end in Paris.
As with all EWRA-sponsored trips, both of these are open to current employees, contractors, retirees, their families, and friends. If you have any questions about the trips, email Ann.Thomas@nrc.gov.
Ireland in Depth
The thirteen-day trip to Ireland will depart from Washington on October 21 and return on November 2. The total cost for the tour from Washington, including airfare and many meals, is $2295 per person, based on double occupancy. Government taxes and fees are another $137, and there is a $495 additional fee for single occupancy.
The tour will depart from Dulles International Airport on October 21 (departures can be arranged from other cities), and arrive in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, the next day. Essentially the tour will go south from Galway and follow the coast, and then go north, ending in Dublin.
A deposit of $350 per person is required to make a reservation. To make a reservation or for more information, contact Ann.Thomas@nrc.gov.
Christmastime in the South of France
EWRA is also taking reservations for Christmastime in the South of France, a nine-day cruise on the Rhone River, with an optional add-on to Paris.
Travellers will depart from Washington on December 5 (departures can be arranged from other cities). After landing in Marseille, France, they will be met and escorted to the ship in Arles. The ship will visit such cities as Avignon, Viviers, Tournon, Vienne, and Lyon. The trip includes the Captain's welcome and farewell receptions and dinners, as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner most days. On-board activities will be coordinated by a program director, and there will be escorted sightseeing tours in Arles, Avignon, Viviers, and Lyon.
The base price for the trip, including roundtrip airfare from Washington, is $1945. This is the price per person, for a lower deck cabin, based on double occupancy. (A main deck cabin will cost $2345 per person.) In addition, there will be government taxes and fees of $137 per person (subject to change) and $85 per person for port charges and handling fees (also subject to change). Trip insurance is an optional (and recommended) extra.
The optional extension to Paris includes transportation to Paris on a high-speed train, three nights in a hotel, a city sightseeing tour, and breakfast daily, as well as transportation from the train station to the hotel and from the hotel to the airport for the return flight to the United States. The cost of the Paris extension starts at $595 per person. The extension is subject to availability.
A deposit of $500 a person will reserve your space on the trip. For more information, or to make a reservation, email Ann.Thomas@nrc.gov.
EWRA Plans New Store
The Employees Welfare and Recreation Association is making plans to move into its new facility in Two White Flint North later this year. The store will be located in the exhibit area, off the TWFN lobby, across from the coffee stand.
EWRA is working with the Office of Administration and architects Perkins and Will to create a free-standing facility, which will feature glass walls, with ample shelf and hanging space for merchandise. The new facility is scheduled for completion this summer.
In the interim, the EWRA store is operating at a temporary location inside the New Reg Cafe in One White Flint North. The store sells NRC merchandise and other items from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. each work day that a volunteer is available.
Currently the store is featuring NRC logo collared polo shirts, which feature the new agency logo and The Best Place To Work on the front, and the Diversitymagazine Best Place award logo on the sleeve. They are available in all sizes, in gray or white, so be sure to stock up for those future recruiting trips. EWRA also has a limited supply of polo shirts with the NRC seal, as well as attache cases, sports bags, baseball caps and other items.
In addition, EWRA is working to establish contacts in all of the Headquarters buildings, to facilitate employees' being able to purchase logo merchandise.
If you have any questions about the store or if you are willing to volunteer to help out, please contact Ann.Thomas@nrc.gov.
Retirees Luncheon. Noon. Old Country Buffet, Gaithersburg.
Silent Auction, Exhibit Area, Two White Flint North
|May 22||Asian Pacific American Heritage Dinner, at Headquarters. Guest speaker, Department of Labor Under Secretary Anna Hui.|
|May 27||All Hands Meeting|
|June 2||Awards Ceremony|
|June 17-19||Fuel Cycle Information Exchange, third annual, auditorium TWFN.|
Chris Cahill Honored by Professional Engineers
Christopher Cahill of Region I has been honored as one of the top Professional Engineers in the Federal government. He was honored by the National Society of Professional Engineers at its recent 29th Annual Federal Engineer of the Year Award Ceremony, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Chris, a senior reactor analyst in Region I, was one of 34 Professional Engineers recognized this year. In all there are more than 91,000 Professional Engineers in Federal Government service. Chris was recognized for his exceptional contributions to the agency's safety mission and its goal of effectiveness and efficiency. In particular, his nomination cited his work to initiate and facilitate the exchange of information between the NRC's Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research and the Naval Research Laboratory in the area of fire testing for digital instrumentation and control systems; his detailed assessment of a Region I licensee's diesel generator failure; and his extensive involvement in developing and mentoring new inspectors.
Other Government agencies represented at the award ceremony included the Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard; the Army Corps of Engineers; the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Veterans Affairs; the Food and Drug Administration; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Darrell Roberts, Deputy Director of the Region I Division of Reactor Safety, compiled the package nominating Chris. Mark Salley, Chief of the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research Fire Research Branch, accompanied Mark to the award ceremony. Chris credits Mark with giving him the technical and career guidance that enabled him to obtain his Professional Engineer's license.
Chris earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the State University of New York Maritime College and his master's degree in environmental engineering at the University of New Haven. After graduating from the Naval Nuclear Power School, he served aboard two fleet ballistic missile submarines and was an instructor at the Navy's submarine school. He is currently a Naval Reserve Commander in the Office of Naval Research Science and Technology Research Program, assigned to a unit in Norfolk, Virginia.
Chris joined the NRC in 1997 as a reactor engineer in the Division of Reactor Safety. He has been a resident inspector and a senior resident inspector, and he assumed his present job as a senior reactor analyst in 2004. He is married, with two children, Matthew and Meghan, and outside the office his interests include marathons, triathlons, golf, and cycling.
You can read more about this on the National Society of Professional Engineers website.
Herman Graves Named ACI Fellow
Herman L. Graves III of the Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research has been named a Fellow of the American concrete Institute. The honor was officially conferred at the opening if the organization's recent national convention in Los Angeles.
Herman was one of seventeen ACI members honored with the rank of Fellow at the convention. This brings to 671 the total number so honored since the rank was initiated in 1973.
Herman is a Senior Structural Engineer, responsible for formulating and managing NRC-sponsored research programs related to civil/structural engineering. He also has been involved in research programs involving nuclear containment testing and inspection, concrete structural aging, anchorage to concrete, and soil-structural interaction. In addition, Herman has written several NRC Regulatory Guides and assisted in reviewing license applications for commercial nuclear power plants and fuel cycle
facilities. In particular, the findings and test results of research programs he managed contributed to the technical bases for Regulatory Guide 1.142,"Safety-Related Concrete Structures for Nuclear Power Plants (Other than Reactor Vessels and Containments),"and Regulatory Guide 1.199, "Anchoring Components and Structural Supports in Concrete."
An ACI member for more than twenty-four years, Herman is a member of ACI Committee 349, Concrete Nuclear Structures, and chair of its Subcommittee C, and a member of Committee 355, Anchorage to Concrete. He has contributed to various ACI publications as an author and technical reviewer He is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Section XI, "Working Group on Containment."
Herman received his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Howard University in 1975 and a Master of Science degree in structural engineering from Howard in 1980. A registered Professional Engineer in Washington, DC, he has worked at NRC since 1980.
The ACI Bylaws define a Fellow as an individual who has made "outstanding contributions to the production or use of concrete materials, products, and structures in the areas of education, research, development, design, construction, or management."
Peter Tam Dances His Way to Antarctica
Neil Ray went to Antarctica to run. Peter Tam of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation went there to teach ballroom dancing.
Like Neil, Peter can tell amazing tales of an alien continent, and, like Neil, Peter can claim membership in a very elite group. In fact, Peter believes that he and his wife, Beverly, hold the record for teaching the Southern-most Tango lesson ever.
For the past five years, the Tams have been teaching ballroom dancing and hosting formal dance evenings aboard cruise ships virtually all over the world. Their avocation has taken them to Bermuda and the Caribbean countless times, as well as to all over Europe. It's a wonderful way to see the world at minimal cost; they have to pay to fly between their home and the ports of embarkation and debarkation, but beside that, their trips on the luxury cruise ships are free.
But the opportunity for the cruise to Antarctica this past January was very special, and one they disagree about repeating. "I'd go back in a minute," Peter says, "but my wife isn't so sure about it."
Cruising to Antarctica, even in this day and age, is an adventure. To be more correct, the Tams' trip was not a cruise but an "expedition."
The Tams began their adventure to the world's southern tip with a late January flight to Buenos Aires, the glamorous capital of Argentina, which has become synonymous with the tango. They spent two days there before taking another flight to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the world's southernmost city and their cruise embarkation point. There they boarded the Marco Polo, then a venerable destination cruise ship operated by the Orient Cruise Line.*
For most of its cruises, the Marco Polo carried 800 passengers, but for the trip to Antarctica, it was limited to 500. This meant, Peter explains, that total cruise costs normally divided by 800 were divided by 500 for this cruise, making the cost per person quite a bit higher than usual.
But this capacity restriction, plus a number of other restrictions the Tams encountered, have been imposed by international treaty to help preserve the fragile environment of Antarctica. Peter and his fellow passengers didn't object to the restrictions; they appreciated their importance in safeguarding the environment while at the same time allowing a limited number of tourists limited access to the area. Indeed, Peter explains, many cruises that advertise Antarctica as their destination don't actually land there; instead they anchor out "and hand you a pair of binoculars," he says.
That wasn't the case with the Marco Polo, however. In closely monitored groups of twelve, passengers were loaded on to inflatable Zodiac boats and motored ashore, not just once, but four times, at four different locations, over the course of four days.
Each time those ashore were counted to make sure they didn't exceed the limit (100 persons) on the number allowed at any one time. For ease of keeping track of everyone, the passengers wore bright red parkas (which the cruise line gave them as souvenirs), and the crewmembers wore blue. Before they left land, their boots (which they had to provide on their own) were thoroughly scrubbed and disinfected. When they returned to the ship, they underwent two more separate boot cleanings.
Peter explains that it is very important that there is no transfer of any kind of microorganism from one area to another, all part of the major efforts to preserve the continent's environment.
Antarctica's best known inhabitants are probably its penguins, thanks in some degree to two recent popular movies, The March of the Penguins and Happy Feet. The first and most prevalent penguin image to come to mind is the Emperor Penguin, the largest penguin and the one most frequently pictured. However, the Emperor Penguin is just one of a number of penguins, and each time the Tams went ashore, they visited a colony of a different type.
Because there is no interaction between the penguin colonies, it is important that visitors don't transport any kind of disease-related organisms between them. Since colonies wouldn't have natural immunities to the diseases of other colonies, cross-contamination could be devastating.
The Tams were in Antarctica in the middle of that continent's summer and the temperatures really were warmer than they were the same week in Washington, DC.
Why does his wife have reservations about a return trip? The Drake Passage. The Drake Passage is the relatively narrow stretch of ocean separating Cape Horn (the southern tip of South America) from Antarctica , the waters of which, as one source relates, "are notoriously turbulent, unpredictable, and frequented by icebergs and sea ice."
And relatively narrow is, well, a relative term. The passage is 500 miles wide, and turbulent is a mild way of describing the waves. The Tams experienced 25- to-30-foot waves during the crossings.
A total of four days of the trip were spent crossing the Drake Passage to and from Antarctica. Even though the waves made just walking aboard the ship a challenge, the Tams gave waltz, rumba, and cha-cha lessons during the crossings. Even more amazing, people came to the lessons! That was quite an experience for the dancers and their teachers, and, according to Peter, "many new dance moves were invented during those lessons."
You can see some awesome photos of the trip. The photos may or may not make you decide to travel there, but they certainly will give you an appreciation of what you might encounter on a trip to Antarctica.
You might also want to visit some of Peter's other photo galleries on the website, to see photos of some of the other, perhaps less exciting, places they have visited in their cruise/dancing career.
While they have taught on a number of cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean, these days the Tams prefer trips to Europe. Peter said there is much more interest in dancing on those cruises, and many more formal evenings. While teaching is their primary shipboard duty, they also participate in the formal evenings on board the ship when dancing is part of the agenda. It is their "job" to dance, to inspire others to follow them. However, they dance with each other and their students; they are not dance "hosts." (Many cruise lines will offer individuals, invariably men, free or reduced-price trips in exchange for their agreeing to serve as hosts and dance with the ladies.)
Peter and Beverly have been enjoying ballroom dancing for a number of years, and, it was at a dance session where they were "discovered." A booking agent who saw them dancing asked if they would be interested in teaching on cruises and the rest, as they say, is history.
Their next cruise will be a trans-Atlantic "repositioning" cruise. They will leave from Fort Lauderdale, cross the Atlantic, then visit western European ports before ending in Stockholm. (Many cruise lines offer reposition cruises in the spring. During the winter months, their ships will visit ports in the Caribbean, then in the spring, they move back across the Atlantic, to spend the summer visiting ports in the Mediterranean or venturing to Scandinavia and Russia.)
In addition to teaching on cruise ships, the Tams are instructors for a dance club that meets Saturdays at Strathmore Music Center (on Rockville Pike, about 1 mile south of NRC). They also have taught at the Congressional Club and at other area dance venues.
If you find the idea of free cruises appealing, Peter says it is not that hard to get assignments, as long as you have a skill to teach or something interesting to talk about that would appeal to a cruise audience. Talks on such subjects as bridge lessons and feng shui are popular. One Washington area artist demonstrates his painting techniques, while his wife handles sales of his paintings and prints on half a dozen or more cruises every year. On the Tams' recommendations, a number of speakers have been contracted to speak on cruise ships.
*Since this cruise, the Marco Polo has changed hands and reportedly will be back at sea as a German-language ship. "That will leave me out," laughs Peter. "I don't think I can teach ballroom dance in German."
Sandra Valencia Helps Managers Learn How To Manage
When Sandra Valencia first worked as a project manager at the Food and Drug Administration, she often found herself struggling to get things done right. But all that changed when the FDA sent her to George Washington University to study project management.
She learned the professional skills she needed to supplement basic knowledge and common sense and to produce quality results. She also developed a deep appreciation for the value of her training.
So, when she joined the NRC as a project manager in the Office of Information Services last year, she quickly shared with her training experience with her new management. She was instrumental in helping to arrange for thirty Information Technology project managers to study project management through the George Washington program management master's certificate program. They began taking the GW classes in January at the agency's professional development center at the Gateway Building in Bethesda. They expect to take their final exams in August.
The George Washington University master's certificate program consists of eight courses on how to manage risks, set requirements, schedule projects, control and estimate costs, and communicate effectively. There is also an introductory course on overall management skills. Each course takes between two and four days.
You can read more about Sandra and the project management training program at the Federal Times website.
by Marshall Grotenhuis, retiree
|Editor's Note: Retiree Notes is a regular feature of NR&C, designed to help keep employees, retirees, and other NRC "alumni" informed about their former colleagues. Anyone who has items of interest to contribute to the column is asked to submit them to NR&C, Mail Stop 16 E 15, or email Ann.Thomas@nrc.gov.|
We certainly have lots of luncheons to catch up on. We have been continuing, but our numbers aren't as good as we would like. We do have a good variety of people turning out, including the ladies. However, we don't get big turnouts at any one luncheon. So, how about it folks. Please join us.
We have been getting a great response to our new electronic edition, with lots of e-mails from old friends. There has been a lot of sympathy for our computer issues and a few tidbits of news. We hope that when you get your NR&C each month, you'll take the time to send us a quick email update on what you're doing.
We do have some bad news to share this time. Our faithful scribe, Marshall Grotenhuis, who has been reporting on luncheons for 15 years, will be absent for a while. He fell and is recuperating at home. To complicate things, his wife, Marilynn, also fell, and is recuperating as well. We hope they will both be up and about soon.
In Marshall's absence, August Spector was at the ready to provide us with photos of the April luncheon. With our new electronic format, we hope to be able to use many more photos than we had been using in the recent past ... so keep us in mind.
Along with the photos, August passed on word of his many activities. He wrote, "I'm busy in retirement, volunteering and on the Boards of several non-profit organizations which deal with helping adults with mental disabilities. I run two workplace support/discussion groups each month, one in Rockville, the other in Silver Spring, where guidance and assistance is provided. These activities are provided at no cost.
"Also doing my art and exhibiting some at local shows. I'm also writing poetry, and playing with the grandchildren."
August also suggested that current Headquarters employees come to the retirees luncheons for a taste of what to expect when they decide to retire. The luncheons are held at noon on the first Wednesday of the month, at the Old Country Buffet, Gaitherstown Plaza, 240 North Frederick Avenue (Route 355), Gaithersburg. No reservations are necessary. Just come. Luncheon veterans will attest that the food is great and the price is very reasonable.
Even though Marshall was confined to his home, Gerry Klingler provided him with information on the luncheons and he passed it on to us.
Of the March luncheon, Marshall wrote, "Thirty-one retirees, somewhat a little more than the past few. We had two ladies, Nellie Plitt and Donnie Sue Ferrell, and they have been regular attendees, but we would like to have more ladies. We also have quite a few who come over the bridge from Northern Virginia regularly: Loren Bush, Mack Cutchin, Larry Kopp, Lee Spessard, and Bob Tedesco. Bud Requa has moved to Delaware and we expect to see him more often now, and Bill Long is a newcomer from the Baltimore area. We also have a number of regulars who life close by: Dick Eckenrode, Pete Erickson, Charles Ferrell, Bill Forehand, Bob Rothman, August Spector, Dick Wessman, and Pete Williams, as well as Bernie Bordenick, who comes from Frederick.
Those at the March luncheon were Mark Au, Bob Baer, Loren Bush, Jerry Carter, Mack Cutchin, Dick Eckenrode, Pete Erickson, Howard Faulkner, Charles and Donnie Ferrell, Bill Forehand, Ed Goodwin, Shou-Nien Hou, Graham Johnson, Gerald Klingler, Larry Kopp, Norm Lauben, Bill Long, Ollie Lynch, Dick McMullen, Joe Murphy, Paul Norian, Nellie and Bob Plitt, Bud Requa, August Spector, Lee Spessard, Bob Tedesco, Gerry Tomlin, Dom Tondi, and Pete Willliams.
Don't forget to check out the EWRA's fall trips. There have been retirees on most if not all of the EWRA trips in recent years and, reportedly, a good time was had by all. Right now there are two trips in the planning stages, one to Ireland and one to the south of France, on a river boat. You can read about the trips elsewhere in this issue. If you are interested, don't delay in making plans.
Our recent emails produced a nice note from Betty Cianci. Betty writes,
"Thanks so much for sending an update on NR&C.... Here's an update on what I have been doing in Ocean Pines (Maryland). I am currently a 'free-lance writer' for The Courier, which is published in the Ocean Pines area and also for the magazine Gray Shore. I write on a variety of subjects, from the need for music in the schools to Leap Year Traditions and the fight women had to get the vote. It keeps my 75-year-old mind active and I'm enjoying it!"
And Richard Brady writes, "Don't have any big news, except that our daughter, Molly, got engaged at Christmas, and our son, Jason, and his wife, Nicole, are expecting their first child, a daughter, around the first of May, which coincides with the expected completion of their new home here in Rappahannock County. Linda and I are so excited you would think we are having the baby!
"Otherwise, retirement, since January 2001, has been everything I hoped it would be, and except for a few medical issues, life in the Blue Ridge is good. I appreciate getting the NR&C and hearing how everyone is doing."
New To Metro? You Can Get Route Help
Both Metro pros and newcomers to the system can benefit from using Trip Planner.
This handy feature on the Metro website can quickly show you the best way to get to your destination.
Once you locate Trip Planner, at the upper right-hand side of the Metro home page, you type in your point of origin and your destination. Then you type in the time of day you want to travel. And, you can indicate some personal preferences: Do you want to minimize travel time, walking distances, or transfers? Do you want to travel by bus only? Rail only? Or a combination? How far are you willing to walk? .2 mile? .6 mile? 1 mile?
You also have to select the month and day, as well as the time, you plan to travel. Date and time are very important because services may vary greatly, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. All your answers will make a difference in the Planner's recommendations.
After you submit your information, the Trip Planner will offer the best route(s) to take to get someplace, including fare information and walking directions to a given address from a bus stop or Metrorail station.
Trip Planner will tell you how to get to your destination using Metrorail, Metrobus, local bus services (including CUE, U-MD Shuttle, Howard County Transit, DASH, Arlington, Frederick County Transit, RIBS Fairfax Connector, Annapolis Transit, Connect-a-Ride, Prince William County-OmniRide/OmniLink, Loudoun County Transit, Ride-On, Tysons Shuttle, and The Bus), and local rail services, including MARC Train and Virginia Railway Express.
Trip Planner will quickly respond with a routing, time, and cost for your trip. However, Trip Planner itineraries may not account for temporary delays or detours caused by unexpected service disruptions, scheduled maintenance and track work, or adjusted schedules for weekend bus detours. Be sure to check Service Disruptions, News Headlines and Bus Detours to see if any of these might affect your trip.