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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Taming the Workplace Bully By Adam Piore

It started during the training sessions for her new job. Elizabeth Santeramo, a cancer information specialist in New York, saw a woman across the room glance in her direction, whisper in the ear of a co-worker, and then snort derisively. The episode seemed so brazenly immature, as if plucked directly from Mean Girls, that Santeramo shrugged it off. “The work we were doing was to help people who were just diagnosed with cancer,” she says. “We’re all empathic, compassionate people, I told myself. I’m just being paranoid.” A few days later, the abusive snickering intensified.
One day Santeramo’s nemesis approached a cubicle near hers, where she removed a cutout picture of a golden-haired cat and propped it up so everyone in the room could see it. When Santeramo stood up, puzzled, the woman began to meow at her. Her colleagues around her joined in. Soon, a chorus of malicious meowing would follow Santeramo in and out of the office like a demented soundtrack. “To this day,” she says, “I remain mystified by the meows.”
The abuse, which led to an emotional meeting with her supervisor, is just one indication of how bullying, contrary to popular stereotype, has made its way from high school locker rooms and hallways to the office. “In a lot of workplaces, it’s just considered part of daily workplace culture,” says Joe Grimm, professor of journalism at Michigan State University. “Browbeating, intimidation, cutting people off, and being the loudest in the room with an opinion.” In a recent book he edited, The New Bullying: How Social Media, Social Exclusion, Laws and Suicide Have Changed Our Definition of Bullying, Grimm reveals how bullying has some professionals living in debilitating fear of the office, which may sound familiar for viewers of The Devil Wears Prada, the thinly veiled account of working at Vogue, or the junior analysts atGoldman Sachs (GS) who were once forced to dress up like Teletubbies. “When bullies get out of school,” says Grimm, “they don’t stop being bullies.”
By some accounts, legions of Biff Tannens and Nurse Ratcheds are running rampant, inflicting cruelty on a large part of the American workforce. In August, CareerBuilder announced that 35 percent of employees surveyed claim to have been bullied at work, up from 27 percent the year before. The Workplace Bullying Institute, based in Bellingham, Wash., has 36 state chapters, a 10,000-person mailing list, and local, on-the-ground “targets” (the WBI doesn’t like the word victim) who now direct anti-bullying campaigns and serve as local points of contact. This year legislation making it easier for bullying victims to sue employers was introduced in 13 states.
The official definition of bullying, according to the WBI, is a “repeated, health-harming mistreatment” by one or more “perpetrators” that takes the form of “verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating,” or “work interference-sabotage—which prevents work from getting done.” Here, WBI representatives make a distinction between a bully and someone who’s just mean. An overly demanding boss, explains a WBI volunteer, generally puts pressure on all underlings. Once a task is finished, however, verbal assaults stop. Bullies tend to single out an individual with an added level of personal malice. When a manager at a Direct Federal Credit Union a few years ago seized an underling’s diary and read excerpts to her co-workers, that was bullying.
In the corporate world, bullying tends to be about power, control, and career advancement. “Bullying can be a way of getting ahead,” says Stacey Kessler, assistant professor of management at Montclair State University. For decades researchers have used questionnaires known as Machiavellianism (or Mach) scales to measure an individual’s capacity to engage in the manipulative, amoral, and deceitful behaviors espoused by the 15th century ends-justify-the-means diplomat. Recently psychologists found that those who score high on the 100-point Mach scale are also among those likeliest to engage in office bullying. The employee “might bully someone at the job to keep them quiet or to get an individual to do more things for him or her,” says Kessler. The person could also be popular and want to maintain his or her status, or have low self-esteem and want to feel superior, adds Robin Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University. “In workplace bullying,” she says, “you’re talking about adults who have a certain degree of self-control, so they are more devious and calculating.”

The NASA Rubber Rooms - Not Open To The Public

« on: 11/24/2012 01:14 AM »

Last Monday I had the opportunity to photograph the Rubber Room underneath launch pad 39A. Here is a photo blog I made up detailing my visit.
The Nasa Rubber Room

Small and circular, this compact room is mounted on massive springs, so anyone inside would feel little disturbance from the gargantuan disaster of a Saturn V exploding right above them.

Back in the days before the space shuttle. the lunch vehicle, Saturn V was huge, and huge rockets – should they blow up accidentally – tend to have proportionately devastating explosions, so engineer calculations had it that, should this occur – an explosion on the launch pad – it would turn into a fireball 1,408 ft wide, burning up to 1,380 degrees Celsius hot for almost 40 seconds.

In order that all crews could be gotten clear of such a blast, NASA had three possible escape systems – the launch escape system pulled the command module free from the rocket during an abort – then there was a slide wire that  astronauts could ride down to a safe zone, and thirdly was an amazing an underground blast chamber, below the launch pad
This blast chamber is obviously pre-Apollo, and thoughts of it somehow  got buried, but is still there and operational, a blast room that is basically a bomb shelter. Small and circular, this compact room is mounted on massive springs, so anyone inside would feel little disturbance from the gargantuan disaster of a Saturn V exploding right above them.

There are massive chairs lining the room, large enough to accomodate astronauts in full pressure suits when strapped in, plus one fire blanket per man in the middle of the room – in which  twenty men could seek refuge in the blast chamber for up to 24 hours.
Equipped with CO2 scrubbers that came with spare filters, the chamber also contained a store of so-called oxygen candles, which were chemically composed, when burning, to produce six and a half man-hours of oxygen per kilogram – these candles lit according to a detailed schedule, which also gave filter changing times.
Fewer than six men inside could all breathe normally for a full day while the air above them cleared, though the more were in there, the shorter this time was, so these extra methods of providing oxygen became imperative for survival.
To gain entrance to this chamber, astronauts and pad crews had to take an elevators from any level on the gantry to the base of the mobile launch platform. On the north face thereof was a square door with rounded edges, which  opened to a slide  -60 meters long – for sending them 12 metres below the launch pad, where they landed in the rubber room – so dubbed through being padded entirely with bouncy rubber -before a six inch steel door admitted them through into the blast chamber.

Once the Apollo program ended, the rubber rooms and blast chambers were abandoned, but the one under Pad A, is still there, and in good order. Preserved as an historic site – even if off limits to the public – it is definitely something to see, should you ever get the chance to do so.


Amy Shira Teitel
Analysis by Amy Shira Teitel 
Tue Nov 20, 2012 12:17 PM ET 
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The Saturn V was huge, and huge rockets tend to have proportionately devastating explosions. Engineers calculated that a Saturn V exploding on the launch pad would turn into a fireball 1,408 feet (430 meters) wide and burn for nearly 40 seconds reaching a peak temperature of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,380 degrees Celsius).
In the age of Saturn V -- the 60s and 70s -- to get astronauts and launch crews clear of a fatal explosion, NASA had three possible escape plans in place: the launch escape system that would pull the command module free from the rocket during an abort; a slide wire astronauts could ride to a safe point on the ground; and an underground blast chamber.
The blast chamber is somehow buried in all the Apollo-era history. It's fitting, perhaps, since it's actually directly beneath the launch pad where the theoretical Saturn V explosion would have occurred.
The blast room is basically a bomb shelter. A small, circular room, it's mounted on massive springs like a missile silo. This meant that anyone inside would have felt little disturbance when the Saturn V exploded right overhead.
Lining the room are huge chairs, big enough for an astronaut in a full pressure suit to strap himself in for safety. There's also one fire blanket per man in the center of the room (shown below).
Up to 20 men could seek refuge in the blast chamber for up to 24 hours, though with more men, things became problematic due to the rise in carbon dioxide levels. The room was equipped with carbon dioxide scrubbers that came with spare filters and a store of oxygen candles -- a type of chemical oxygen generator containing a mix of sodium chlorate and iron powder that burns to produce 6.5 man-hours of oxygen per kilogram of the gas mixture.
At the time, on the wall was a detailed schedule outlining exactly when oxygen candles had to be lit and filters had to be changed. With less than six men in the blast room, they could all breathe normally for a full day while the air above them cleared. With up to 10 men in the room, things got a little more complicated. Additional methods of providing oxygen became imperative if everyone inside was going to survive.
As evidence that men could last for a while in the blast room, there was even a toilet. But barely tucked away behind one of the chairs, using it in such a small space wouldn't have been an appealing prospect.
To get into this fortress of safety, the astronauts and pad crews had to take a ride. Elevators would carry them from any level on the gantry to the base of the mobile launch platform where, on the north side, was a square door with rounded edges. It opened to a slide, 200 feet (60 meters) long, that would send astronauts and pad crews on a winding ride to a point 40 feet (12 meters) under the launch pad. They landed in the rubber room, so called because it was padded entirely with bouncy rubber. A six inch steel door admitted them through a short tunnel and into the blast chamber.
Once the air around the launch pad had cleared and it was safe to leave, astronauts and pad crews could take one of two long, narrow, and winding tunnels to the western edge of the launch pad area. There, they could open a door and step outside.
After the Apollo program ended, the rubber rooms and blast chambers were abandoned in place. There were no circumstances under which shuttle astronauts would use this underground shelter; the preferred method beginning in the 1980s were the gondolas on cables that led from the top of the gantry to a safe site on the ground.
The rubber room and blast chamber, at least the one under Pad A, is still there. It's off limits to the public and preserved as a historic site, but if you can finagle your way in (which involves knowing the right people) it's definitely a piece of history worth seeing.
Image: Top: The door to the rubber room. Middle: The rubber room with fire blankets in the center. Credit: NASA