Higher ground…

With the Mississippi on the way up, I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily abandoning our position in West Tennessee, but we are making preparations for a tactical retrograde to positions on higher ground. If flooding along the Mississippi and its tributaries gets somewhere in the vicinity of the worst case scenario, my office will be at least partially underwater, roads and bridges leading to the base will be impassable, and there’s some disagreement about whether entire swaths of the county could see their power turned off for 1-2 weeks. That last part begs the question, who in their right mind builds the main electrical distribution panel for a city on the wrong side of the levee? Yes, I’m looking at you MLGW.

Looking at the FEMA flood maps, I can’t foresee any circumstances where the house would be in any direct danger from flooding, aside from the possibility of stormdrain and sewer backup – there’s a happy thought. The biggest risk for me seems to be the possibility of multiple days with no electricity. In the grand scheme of bad things than can happen, I know that being without power isn’t even close to the worst of it. However, if you’re a dedicated technophile, being without the juice even for a few hours can be cause for developing nervous tics. A week or more? That’s enough to fill your heart with dread.

Being forewarned, as they say, is being forearmed and plans are being put in place that would give me the opportunity to pull up stakes temporarily until something approaching a civilized level of public services have been restored. Assuming that the word is going to come down making this a reality the real questions then becomes – When and for how long? If it looks like a situation that will last more than a few days, the logical answer is to pack up the truck and head east. Sure, I could get a hotel alot closer, but the thought of spending an indeterminate amount of time in a hotel room with two 80 pound dogs doesn’t seem ideal. Then again, leaving the house undefended in a city like Memphis, with no electricity (and therefore no alarm), and hoping it hasn’t been looted and pillaged while I’ve been away doesn’t sound appealing either. For some reason, I don’t think the fine citizens of Memphis would respond to natural disaster any better than those of New Orleans did.

I plan to stay in place as long as I have two things: electricity and an open escape route to the east. When either one of those things seem to be in danger of going away, then I’ll be in the wind and headed for high ground.

Friendly advice for the young and ambitious…

I was once like you. I was young and ambitious. I wanted to streak up the career ladder further and faster than anyone. For those out there who want to climb, you’re eventually going to reach the point where you’ll be required to make a life-altering decision. You’re going to have to reconcile a nominal pay increase with the enormous pain in the ass that is becoming a first line supervisor.

If you’re even hesitating for a second in deciding whether that’s something interesting to you, let me key you into a secret – It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it at twice the pay. Sure, if you’re lucky there are going to be one or two hard chargers in your group, but most of the rest are going to be average at best and you’ll land an unholy sprinkling of dregs, sociopaths, malcontents, and those whose best service would have been to retire a decade or two ago.

Take a bit of advice from someone who was ambitious before you came along. Find yourself a nice mid-level position, gather the reins of a couple of projects, and enjoy a fruitful career concerned with meeting your own deadlines and being limited mostly by only your own capacity to work. Don’t, under any circumstances, allow them to make you a supervisor, team leader, or any other euphemistic term for becoming part of the problem rather than its solution. You’ll end up looking back at what started out as a promising career and wondering when it became a low-budget shitshow.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

Now I’m scared…

Tornado warnings don’t really bother me. A county-wide state of emergency ain’t no thing. The waters can fall from the skys and winds tear at the roof. Power can even fail – as long as it’s not too long – and I’m not moved much. But this afternoon, I was stopped cold and realized the desperateness of the situation. Old Man River is on the march – perhaps to challenge the high water mark set in the 30s. A once in a century flood tide along the length of America’s great inland waterway. The father of waters is rolling on to the Gulf… and for the first time in their history, the casinos are closing. Casinos. Are. Closing.

Now casinos exist for one and only one reason – to make money hand over fist. In good weather and bad, they’re as constant as the $20 bills feeding their slots. And now, one by one they are closing, laying on sandbags, and hoping to ride out the high water. If casinos are scared enough to stop making money, surely what hope is there for mere mortals? Then again, I live 15 miles from the river on high ground, but that seems less dramatic.


Since I had some unexpected free time this afternoon and realized that I had all the key ingredients at the house already, I decided it would be a good idea to make up a pot of sauerkraut and kielbasa. It sounded like a good idea at the time, because it sounds like a good idea every time. That’s just one of the flavor combinations I love – sour and savory. Ohmnomnomnom. The part that I always seem to forget is that as much as I love kraut, it does not love me. Not one little bit. I promise that I won’t trouble you with the fine points of the inner workings of my digestive system, but suffice to say that I will pay heavily for this momentary lapse in judgment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for an appointment to inspect the domestic waterworks. There is no time this evening for deep or philosophical thoughts or even ranting about the government hiring practices. Yeah. That bad.


Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have ESP, clairvoyance, or the ability to teleport back in time to set right things that once went wrong. When an email sits in your inbox for 12 days and misses a key suspense to echelons higher than reality, no matter how frantic you sound at my desk, I can’t magically manufacture correctly updated data for you to use in a report. If it was due on the 8th and it’s now the 11th, you’re pretty much hosed no matter how brilliant I make the numbers look.

I’m not going to point out that you, as the high and mighty Uberboss, have two administrative assistants who sit right outside your door and are theoretically supposed to keep track of your email and calendar. I know the three of you are probably overwhelmed by the number of messages slipping stealthily into your inbox undetected. Email is sneaky like that. New messages are rarely boldly highlighted in any way and it’s so easy to overlook the little red exclamation point… or the fact that the message title turned red when it was close to becoming past due.

I know your wandering around issuing a slightly different version of the same random task to every third person who’s unfortunate enough to cross your path keeps you awfully busy, but Uberboss or not, when you behave like a petulant child, that’s pretty much how you’re going to be treated.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

The rate of return…

It seems that federal civilian agencies like my resume alot more than my brethren in DoD. Not surprising, I suppose, since we’re arguably the most un-military organization in the Army. As of this morning, that means 19 active referrals out of 365 total resumes sent out… giving me a return rate of 5.2%. I’d rather be at something like 10%, but it’s good to know that at least one in twenty actually ends up sitting on someone’s desk. Apparently opting for the even-wider-net approach has met with some limited success. Now if I can just get a few of them to call me for interviews and bump up the odds a few more points. One agonizingly slow step at a time, I suppose.

Testing… Testing…

Given the volume of jobs I’ve applied for in the last eight months, I was under the impression that I’d come across very little that would surprise me. That was until the fine people at TSA invited me to schedule an appointment this weekend at a third party computer center to come in and take their skills assessment. Seriously, TSA? You want me to take a two-hour test just to get through to the part where an actual person reads my resume? Yeah, as interesting as that sounds, I think I’ll be taking my chances that one of my other 360 resumes out there is going to find its way onto the right desk. I wouldn’t object to the process if I were, you know, applying for an entry level job somewhere in a field office, but since I’m angling for a senior analyst slot at your headquarters, I would think that you’d be able to sus out the key information you need from the dozen or so pages of resume, undergrad and graduate transcripts, and personnel records that I sent you. So, yeah, TSA… I appreciate you getting back to me, but I don’t think your agency is the right fit for my skill sets. Thanks now.