Compelling vision…

From the Pentagon today, POTUS commented that “Ideologies are not defeated with guns but better ideas and more attracting and more compelling vision.” It’s a nice sound bite. It also has, at it’s core, at least a kernel of truth. The United States and her allies rolled back fascism and communism in the 20th century in part because democracy tends to be a far more appealing rule set for most people.

That being said, though, we should probably note that it took one hell of a lot of guns to make that vision a reality and shove the Wehrmacht off the Norman beaches and chase them back across the Rhine to destroy their ability to carry on the war in the German heartland. It took a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons to just barely keep the peace in the second half of the past century. It took a vast (and extraordinarily well-armed) navy to maintain the sea lanes for global trade.

Democracy may not take root from the tip of a bayonet, but bloody history has proven that it virtually never gets carried forward in any other way. We’ve certainly got a more compelling and attractive vision than some wannabe throwback to the 8th century, but if we’re afraid to crush that ideology into tiny bits and then salt the earth from which it sprung, we’d might as well send off a note to the enemy and ask if they’re ready to just hug it out.

The wellspring of modern civilization is under daily assault and if we continue to do nothing other than talk a good game, well, I’m not sure we even has such a compelling national vision these days. Without a real vision for what the world should look like and the firepower and willingness to back that vision up, we’re just whistling past the graveyard of fallen world powers. As for me, that’s company I’d prefer not to be in since we can avoid it.

Learning acceptance…

Even with the afternoon and evening to go, I can feel Monday’s grinding maw approaching. One look at the list of things I was shooting to have finished by the time the curtain fell on the long weekend tells me there’s no path to get there from here. I hate that feeling. I also, just a little bit, hate that I care quite so much about it.

It wasn’t an exciting list, including such fun-filled activities as flushing the well filter, getting the mulch out of the front yard and back into the planting beds, wiping down baseboards, and giving the dog’s room a good scrub, and going on from there. Some of the things god crossed off. More of them will spill over onto next week’s already growing list.

It’s probably a character flaw, but I wish I could quiet down my head just a little and let more of the “small stuff” just be. I’m not wired like that. I thought briefly about trying to catch a movie this afternoon, before grudgingly admitting I wouldn’t get any joy from it as long as things were left undone or out of place on the homestead.

I do wonder sometimes if I might be a more sane person if I could somehow manage to learn acceptance – or at least come to an accommodation with whatever in my head urges me on to use every available hour to get one more thing off the list… Though with my own small mental quirks notwithstanding, I have to admit I’ve got this old house looking damned good. I wouldn’t eat off the floors or anything, but I’m pretty sure the casual observer would give the place passing marks. That’s something, right?

Now if it would just dry up enough outside that I could cut the grass and do some trimming we’d be all set.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776


I’ll just leave this right here…

Originally posted on JEFFREYTHARP.COM:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right…

View original 1,349 more words

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. LED lights. Apparently the previous owner of my house had a stash of incandescent bulbs. I wish I’d have known that before we closed so I could have asked him to throw them in with the sale. Now those “leftover” bulbs are failing at the rate of about one a week and I’m trying to replace them with LED bulbs as much as possible. The projected energy savings is a nice perk, but I’m really a fan of the idea that it could be 10 years or more before I need to replace the bulb again. It should be an easy enough process; go to store, buy appropriate wattage replacement, install as needed. It should be, but it’s not. There’s apparently no such thing as a “60-watt bulb” anymore. Now you’ve got bizarrely small wattages, concerns about the right “color temperature,” lights that change color all together, bulbs with built in speakers, and remote controls. Great. That’s lovely, but honest to God all I want to do is go out and buy a basic light that will sit there and look like the old GE 60-watt incandescent that we’ve used since humanity got around to “capturing” electricity… and I’d like to not pay $14.97 for the privilege.

2. “Banning” the Dukes of Hazzard. Look gang, I don’t like the fact that some pansy executive decided to take a 40 year old televisions show out of rotation because the way a car was decorated might offend some viewer’s sensibilities. That being said, it was a business decision. No one “banned” the Duke boys. You can’t blame this one on POTUS, the government, or anything other than a TV network trying to avoid having people send them a raft full of letters and calling them damned dirty racists. Not a decision I’d have made if I were the TV Land Vice President for Commercial Programming, but you’ve got to stop running around saying something was “banned” when it wasn’t. It makes you sound like a moron.

3. Shark attacks. It may come as a surprise to many people, but sharks (for the most part) live in the ocean. They can often be found feeding in the same shallow areas along the surf line where people tend to congregate in the summer months. If you decide to jump in to the shark’s natural environment understand that you are assuming a risk wherein you are no longer the apex predator. The natural advantages we humans have on land don’t lend themselves to the water. Life is all about assuming (and trying to mitigate) risk in everything that you do. It’s a game of chance and percentages. Even in North Carolina the chance that you the individual swimmer are going to become the main course are awfully slim when you consider just how many people are in the water with you. I haven’t run the numbers, but I’d bet that the drive to get to the beach is far more likely to end in a fatality. Just something to think about as the media get themselves up in arms about sharks just doing what they do.


When something is scarce, we tend to allocate it carefully. Gold, for instance, is a scarce resource in nature and therefore we value it accordingly. Of course you can buy gold at any of thousands of places online, at the corner jewelry store, or even go scrape it out of a river yourself if you’re so inclined. It’s out there for the taking as long as you’ve allocated the time or money for it.

Since I’ve gotten settled in to the new digs here at Casa de Jeff v2.0, time has been my most consistently scarce resource. I’ve gone from a 1000 square foot rental I was more or less happy to avoid doing maintenance on unless it was urgent, to a place pushing thrice as big where I want to keep every little thing in manufacturer-new condition. Let’s just say spot maintenance has grown to account for an increasingly large amount of whatever time is available. That’s not a complaint, really, since I’m the one in charge of making such decisions.

These last few weeks free time that’s left over has almost all been thrown towards reading – even at the expense of whatever writing I had hoped to get done this summer. I’m working my way through a series based around a dimension traveling World War 2 destroyer, a species of human-esque lemurs, their lizard enemies, oceans full of Very Bad Things, and a British colony that so far just begs you to hate them. It’s not my normal reading, but I’ve churned through the first 5 books of the series in unprecedentedly short order – one of the consequences of dumping every available moment of free time into the Kindle.

I swear it’s a better read than I just made it sound. If you’re at all into historical fiction or sci-fi I really highly recommend giving the Destroyermen series a look. After all, if I’m peddling someone else’s book on my site without getting any compensation at all, you can well imagine that I’ve been impressed with it from start to finish… Well not quite finish, more like the halfway point, but let’s not get hung up on semantics.

If I were a fancy big city psychologist, I might say that it has something to do with a deep-seated need for escapism, but since I’m not I’ll just go with it being a damned entertaining read.

Not for me…

In my long and storied career, I’ve learned one singularly important lesson about leadership and management:

I don’t want to be a supervisor.

Sure, most of these “leadership” lists include many, many wonderful ideas, but mine is simplicity itself. It’s honed by my short stint as a working supervisor and many occasional reminders from being dumped temporarily back into the job in an “acting” capacity. With a third of a career at my back, one of the few things I can say with absolute certainty is that I have no interest in supervising other people’s work. It’s unappealing in an almost visceral level. The way some people react to seeing a snake – that’s basically the way I react to even the suggestion that I should be a supervisor.

There are some very good reasons why people want to get into supervision – helping to set the agenda, mentoring new employees or future leaders, or exercising broader responsibilities. What I know about myself is none of those aspects of the job motivates me. I like getting an assignment, churning through it, and then moving on to the next thing. I’d much rather be turning the proverbial wrench than be the one making sure all the wrenches are being turned.

I’ve got the education and training to do the job. It’s not a lack of technical ability. What it is, however, is a fundamental lack of desire. If there’s any bit of accrued wisdom I would impart to the next generation of line employees, it’s to be damned good and sure being a supervisor is what you want to spend your time doing before you let anyone saddle you with the job. As much as you think you’re going to spend your days leading the office into a brave new world, what you’re really going to be doing is signing leave requests, approving timesheets, soothing ruffled feathers, running interference between your own bosses and the people you supervise, and generally dealing with three hours of administrative minutia for every hour you get to spend doing the “real” job you thought you’d signed on to do.

Some people excel at it. They have a natural affinity for the work. Every time the dark shade of that past life passes over me, I’m reminded of why it’s not for everyone… and especially why it’s not for me.

The deep end…

We’re reorganizing. By my count that brings me up to the 5th full scale reorg I’ve participated in since coming to work for Uncle in 2003. For purposes of this discussion I’m leaving out the myriad of minor moves, tweaks, and changes that have only tangentially touched whatever position I happened to occupy at any given time. If those were included, we’d easily be well over one reorg a year. As it is, one major reorganization every other year feels like it happens far more often than it really needs to.

Reorganization. Realignment. Operational efficiency. Synergy. Improved customer focus. Empowered team members. Leveraged resources. Cross-leveled workload.

Yep. All the right buzz words are there to make sure that this reorganization gets it just right and that six months from now we won’t all be engaged in a counter-reorg to undo most of what was just done. Except of course that we will. Maybe not in six months, but certainly before the year and a half mark some or all of this brave new structure will fall away as ungainly, unworkable, and ultimately unsustainable. They all do in the end.

There will be some new boss at echelons higher than reality who, applying every little thing he thinks he learned at B-school, will have some brave new scheme for how things can work better. Or he’ll need a job for a favored underling. Or he’ll just want to “leave his mark” on the organization.

Big organizations are surprisingly resilient to the finicky twiddling of the Olympians on high. They tend to muddle along despite what damage transient leaders try to do to them. Organizational inertia pushes things along, ensuring that today looks a lot like yesterday and that tomorrow won’t look all that much different. Wait a while and all the changes, both good and bad, will be undone in favor of some other idea. There will always be another reorg just over the horizon. They ebb and flow like the tides.

For some reason I can’t help but think about a ship steaming across the deep ocean. A massive tsunami may pass under its keel unnoticed and unremarked. It’s only when that vast wave washes up on a far shore that it’s really a problem. Get too attached to what you’re doing and where you’re sitting and you’re the one sitting on the shore… but if you stay out there in the deep water, you can just watch it slide on past and inflict its damage on other people.

If anyone needs me I’ll be out here paddling in the deep end until this whole thing blows over.