“Plethora” of investigators

I was wondering about the status of my security clearance, so I called the Security Clearance Support Help Desk at the State Department (yes, that is a thing). I got voice mail, so I left a message, and wasn’t expecting to get a return phone call, because, you know, it’s the government. Well, at 7:00 this evening, they called me back, surprise surprise!

The status is that the background investigation is still ongoing. I said that the investigator who interviewed me (for seven hours) had submitted his report. Yes, was the answer, but there is a “plethora of investigators on your case” (direct quote).

His use of the word “plethora” struck me as unusual. Why would he use that word? How many more than “several” is a plethora? Now I am in paranoia mode. I am imagining a dimly-lit, smoky back room crowded with overweight, middle-aged men pouring over my past tax returns, blog posts, love letters, airplane tickets, and hotel receipts, looking for evidence of unpatriotic or suspicious behavior. “A-ha!” one yells triumphantly, waving a receipt from a scooter rental agency in Victoria, British Columbia. “He didn’t rent a helmet! Communist!”

Hiking in Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio is a geologically unique environment. Sandstone formations were eroded by ground water to produce interesting rock formations and caves. We spent a few days hiking the trails in the park. It was in early April, so the spring foliage wasn’t out yet, but the scenery was still beautiful.

20130408-110219.jpg Old Man’s Cave is a huge natural amphitheater with a stream and small waterfall at the foot.

20130408-110329.jpg A stone bridge begins the trail from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls.

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The trail is a little rough. Wear good hiking boots if you want to take the trails.

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We lost count of the number of waterfalls that we saw.

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20130408-111034.jpg I was surprised that it was possible to sit on the edge of a 100-foot cliff in the park. Most public parks have guardrails to prevent you from being stupid like this.

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Small boot malfunction.

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You need strong legs and knees if you want to see everything in the park – there’s lots of climbing!

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We hiked about 14 miles in one day (Stacy thinks it’s closer to 17). The Grandma Gatewood trail is officially 12 miles long, but we got lost at one point and walked about an hour to get back on the trail. The weather was perfect for hiking: sunny and cool (upper 50s). By the end of the day, we were tired and a little sore, but blister-free!

If you’re into nature, geology and hiking, add Hocking Hills State park to your list. It was worth the five-hour drive to get there.

Medical Clearance update

I just received notice that Ian’s and Evan’s medical clearances came through. Stacy’s hasn’t come through yet, possibly because of a small complication with her medical exam. He has a long-standing health issue related to her having grown up in another country. Our family doctor says that it isn’t a problem, but I’m not surprised that the staff in the State Department’s medical office will scratch their heads over it for a few minutes.

I sent Evan’s information in on March 24th. One week to clearance. That’s pretty speedy, by US Government standards, and much faster than I had thought it would be.

 

The security check continues

I ran into a neighbor at the gym today. She said that our Diplomatic Security investigator contacted her. That was a little curious, because although I had given him a list of all the people who live on our street, I didn’t specifically tell him that she would be a good contact. It seems that he wants to get contacts from contacts. We give him a name, and he asks that person to give him another name. Maybe the idea is that this is a way to get unrehearsed or unprepared responses from people.

Rats!

I sent in the medical forms for Stacy, Ian and Evan’s medical clearance, and I forgot to sign Evan’s form. It was bounced back yesterday.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have noticed that the speed of responses from the State Department has been encouragingly fast. I read somewhere that there was an initiative to reduce the time needed for clearances. Maybe it’s working.

So I have to sign and re-submit Evan’s forms. It’s all done electronically: I email a PDF file to State with a scan of the forms. Good thing I have a scanner at home.

With this delay, Evan’s medical clearance will take a little longer than Stacy’s and Ian’s. My clearance came through in a matter of days. So maybe by the end of next week, we will all have medical clearance. Knock on wood!