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Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Leave it to the government to do things the hard way. Somehow they've figured out how to make it almost impossible for us to bid on federal projects, unless we have access to a blueprint printer.

They used to mail you plans for upcoming jobs. Now they give you a web address where you download a bunch of zip files in the least accessible formats.

It would all work, however awkwardly, if I were the one doing the estimating. Because the Boss has no computer at the Nevada office where he works, nor any desire for one, I have to reduce the drawings to printable size and fax them to him. Since I can barely make out the details on this end, I'm sure that his ten-years-older eyes are squinting at nothing but blurs after it's all been degraded over the fax line.

As for the text, it takes a page and a half to describe the actual work, and a hundred more for the legal boilerplate. Conferences, notifications, certifications, restrictions, codes, tolerances, inspections, compliances, verifications, safety requirements, access to facilities, environmental regulations, definitions of terms, noise control, traffic control, daily reports, progress schedule, record keeping, testing and design calculations — it's all there in 12-point Courier.

It's exhausting, and we have to wade through it all to make sure we're not missing anything that really matters. Some of the paragraphs are duplicated in different sections of the documents. Others are entirely superfluous because they don't apply to a particular project but are included in all federal bids because the bureaucrats are afraid to leave it out.

Plus, somewhere amid all this verbiage is a word or two on the scope of work we're actually trying to bid on. Sometimes just finding that is the hardest part.

If our government is overpaying for public construction projects, this is part of the reason. If it's easier for large companies with attorneys on staff to fulfill all the arcane bid requirements, that leaves dinky little businesses like ours out of luck.

Speaking of the federal government, apparently they had nothing more pressing to worry about today, so they sent agents to San Francisco to shut down medical marijuana clubs. California voted overwhelmingly a few years back in favor of the medical use of marijuana, but the Bush administration and its drug thugs don't recognize the will of the people.

They also apparently don't care about cancer victims and other patients whose suffering is eased by the physician-prescribed use of this substance. What they do care about is that in the last election California, and especially San Francisco, supported a candidate other than Bush (I forget his name).


Tonight's sunset.

Not only am I spending even more time than usual in front of the television during the Olympics, I'm also filling up TiVo with shows that I might never get around to watching before they get deleted for lack of space. It's a good thing my TiVo receiver can only record two programs at a time, because as weak-willed as I am I'd probably have it running on even more channels if I could. I got around to watching a couple of programs from Sunday tonight, but I have movies that are over a week old. They're hanging by a slender thread.

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One year ago: Down to the Last Drop
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