Not home, but close…

I’ll be back in the DC area for the weekend… Unfortunately, I’ll be stuck in a class the whole time I’m there. Something seems wrong with the first trip back to MD since December being to take a class. The next stretch of time off will be the end of March, and I’m happy to say I’ll be enjoying coffee and gelato in Italy.

So, when everyone is enjoying their weekend think of us poor federal workers stuck at the office. I wish I knew the bastard that started the rumor about government employees never doing anything ‘cause I want to punch him directly in the nose.


If I’m ever in a position to direct the work of others, I will not walk off at “quitting time” because I have an itch to start my three day weekend and leave my people holding the bag on a project that I am responsible for delivering on Monday.

Conversely, when in a position to be directed by others, I will not let the mission fail because of poor leadership from those providing the direction.

Ugly Mug…

One of the side benefits of having an extensive road schedule is being able to sample great locally produced coffees. Several producers from Kona still top my “best of” list, but the downside is that a pound of most pure-Kona coffees will set you back $20-30. As much as I love coffee, even I’m too cheap to brew that on a daily basis.

Here in Memphis, I have found a local company, that I highly recommend. At the moment, I am enjoying the just-brewed goodness of their Southern Pecan offering. If you’re looking for a cup of coffee that is highly drinkable, but won’t break the bank, check out the Ugly Mug Coffee Co.

If you’re a fan of good coffee, order a bag. I think you’ll be pleased.


I always assumed that the next great rift in this country would split along socio-economic lines, but the more I take a long, careful look at the current situation, I believe I see another, potentially more disturbing fracture looming. Given the recent (though somewhat farcical) procedural votes that have taken place in the Congress, I can see a scenario that would have Congress cutting off funds for the war and a president who would in all likelihood ignore that particular legislative prerogative and carry on the war effort. With the executive and the Congress both in the hands of ideological extremists, it does set an interesting stage for what could be not just a Constitutional crisis, but a systemic meltdown in which the system of checks and balances would cease to function. I’ve studied enough history to know that schism between the executive and the legislative is often the furnace where civil wars are forged. While I don’t think our military is busy choosing sides just yet, late at night that is one of the thoughts keeps me awake just a little bit longer.

While I’m on this particular topic, I have to say that it is incumbent upon the Congress of the United States to fully fund the men and women in harms way. Cutting funding for the troops is not only short sighted policy, but also a political mistake. Imagine being a candidate and facing a row of cameras when the first question is going to be “Why didn’t you support our troops?” For good or ill, that’s how the question will be framed. Maybe with more style, but every time, that is going to be the substance of the question.

Resisting Temptation…

Up until now, I have resisted the temptation to comment on Anna Nicole, not so much out of a sense of respect for the dead as out of a belief that it isn’t an event really worth noting as anything more than a passing way. The incessant and insipid coverage in the major media outlets has been nothing short of remarkable for someone whose major contribution to society was getting naked on film and marrying and elderly billionaire.

Am I missing something here? Are we, as a society, truly this vapid? We are a nation at war, beset by foes abroad and at home. A nation racked by both personal and public debts. A nation facing the most serious public policy disputes since Herbert Hoover sat in the White House. And yet, somehow, a dead c-list celebrity has managed to grind the news-cycle to a halt for the last week.

Stop me if I’m wrong here, but does anyone else see a flaw in our collective priorities?

Peaceful, easy feeling…

There really isn’t anything I feel compelled to bitch and complain about at the moment… or more specifically nothing I feel compelled to bitch and complain about with the world as an audience.

All things considered, I’m finding myself remarkably well satisfied. One fairly significant loose end I am working to tie up on the personal side of things, but work is settling into a (somewhat intense) routine and everything else is falling into place. Everything isn’t what I anticipated, but it seems to be alright.

The things we sacrifice…

I’m reminded tonight of that which we give up in order to get the other things we want. As I recall, in economics, this idea of tradeoffs is partially defended as opportunity cost; the cost of the thing we forgo to achieve the next best option. Life is a tradeoff for all of us. Making one decision influences and determines what other decisions we will have the opportunity to make in the future; way piles on to way and what is lost is why we headed down our particular path in the first place.

Do you suppose we ever go so far in one direction that other options are closed off forever? The opportunity cost for our actions becoming an absolute? Is there some great moment of realization where each of our false steps is illuminated? Is there room for contrition? Or will self-recriminations and doubt end in the light of day?

26 Years, 10 Months, 23 Days…

On weekend mornings, the background noise in my houses is most often the FoxNews business report. One of their major talking points for the weekend just passed was the impending collapse of Social Security and what it would take to put that program on a solid fiduciary footing. If my calculations are correct, I can retire from government service in 26 years, 10 months, and 23 days. With that kind of time horizon, I don’t know why anyone in my age bracket would even contemplate Social Security in their calculations on what they need to do in order to retire comfortably. Without a massive infusion of cash from a tax increase, a dramatic reduction in benefits, and an increase in the age when the “pay out” begins, the program is, for all practical purposes, a dead man walking.

Even if some semblance of the program is salvaged, those of us in our 20s and 30s can count on receiving only a return of pennies on every dollar we “contribute” to the plan. Since it’s a government program, we don’t have the choice to “opt out” and invest that portion of our retirement into a sector that actually provides a positive return on investment. Effectively, every dollar our generation is forced to contribute to Social Security is a dollar that is lost to us and is nothing more than a tax by another name.

I was asked not long ago what I would do to fix the system… I don’t want to fix it. I want to tear the mother down. Sixty years ago, Social Security was a stop-gap measure that has been elevated to the lofty status of an entitlement. I don’t want to fix it. I want the government to allow me to be accountable for my own retirement planning and stay out of my way. I don’t want to fix it. I want Americans to start taking responsibility for what happens to them.

I don’t know how or when exactly we became a country of whiners, of men and women too infirm of mind to make our own decisions, of people terrified of the successes and failures that come with making your own decisions and being held accountable for them. If you are in the dawn of your career, it is your responsibility to make yourself smart on your options. Contribute to 401k, Roth, or other investment vehicles until it hurts. If you don’t make any provisions for how you plan to live out (and pay for) your golden years, don’t come bitching to me when you’re eating cat food and living under a bridge. I’ll be too busy playing golf to give a shit.

You know you work for the government when…

…You have to staff your request to take Monday off through four separate people who are, in one way or another, “sort of” your boss. Of course there’s the supervisor who actually signs my timesheets and does my annual rating… His work almost always gets top priority for some reason. Then there’s the guy who I sort of stopped working for after today but who hasn’t actually stopped tasking me to do things yet. There is the guy in the new division who I kind of work for starting Monday who is already filling up my plate with things I need to do for him. And last but certainly not least is the overboss, who randomly throws assignments at me that all need to be handled immediately and possibly without any of the other three actually knowing what I’m working on.

This is one of those days when I am amazed that the most powerful government on earth ever manages to get itself dressed in the morning.