That time…

It’s getting close to that time on Sunday. You all know the time. That moment when you realize it’s late into Sunday afternoon and you have absolutely no interest in doing whatever it is your overlords and paymasters want you to do on Monday. Maybe that’s the cosmic joke. We spend a quarter of the weekend annoyed that it’s about to be over. I suppose that’s offset a bit by wasting half the day Friday looking forward to the end of the day, but still it seems like a less than optimal trade off. In an hour or two I’ll start thinking about dinner. Not long after that, I’ll notice the sun has started to drop behind the trees. Then there will be a 50 minute reprieve thanks to HBO. But after that, Monday is the inevitable next stop. Meh. I’m not feeling it this week.

Arrrrrrmy training, sir…

One of the great old saws about the Army is that it trains as it fights. That is to say that in theory, the Army likes it’s training to approximate real world environments. That helps explain why we dump million of dollars into out of the way places like Ft. Polk, Louisiana and Ft. Irwin, California. They’re some of the last places in the country where large groups of men and equipment can careen across the wilderness unhampered by complaints by decent taxpaying citizens.

I’m not sure this training ethos holds true for Uncle’s vast army of civilian employees. I’ve spent the better part of today sitting in an auditorium with 200-odd colleagues watching as a contractor navigated around the interweb teaching us how to do file management, set permissions, and covering the importance of information sharing and security. The next two days promise more of the same. This probably doesn’t qualify as training as we fight. Then again, looking around at the blank stares and acres of trees sacrificed to make PowerPoint printouts, maybe it is.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date

Amish…

This new job has a lot going for it, not the least of which is putting me 800-odd miles away from a certain batshit crazy senior leader. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few idiosyncrasies around here that I could do without. Until I’m self employed in a company of one, I suspect those are things I’ll just have to resolve to live with though. On balance, it’s been more than a fair trade.

There are a few things, however, that should be called out specifically. The first is that there isn’t a television anywhere in the building. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but I hadn’t realized how much I can come to rely on the quiet ranting of Fox News to help me tune out the random chatter that comes with life in a cube. The second, and perhaps more distressing is the distinct lack of cell service in the building. I’m fortunate to be by a window where I have just enough signal strength to punch out a text message or a tweet. Forget actually receiving a phone call or launching an app, though. This unhappy condition has the unfortunate side effect of leaving me largely at the mercy of whatever “fair use” I can manage with my desktop PC. Since that means I’m using Big Brother’s hardware, it feels like I might as well be Amish eight hours a day.

Rave…

I make a habit of calling people out here in print when they have offended me in some way. It’s only fair that the opposite should be true as well. You get just that one chance to make a first impression and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians at Water’s Edge hit one out of the park for me this morning. I spent less than 5 minutes in the waiting room after checking in. The nurse was in the room to take my vitals before I even set my file down. She was still taking my history when the doctor came in. The doc had me walk him through my meds and history – good move making sure I understood the issues and the treatment plan, by the way – and gave me a once over and checked under the hood. He easily spent 20 minutes in the room before walking me over to the lab for blood work. Less than five minutes with the vampires, and I was on my way. In a 45 minute appointment, total waiting time was less than 5 minutes.

These guys deserve big kudos for efficiency and professionalism. If this is the way they do business, I don’t think I’ll have any issues working with them in the future. They’ve set the bar pretty high for themselves, so I hope this wasn’t a fluke experience. We’ll find out in November.

Listening in…

One of the many downsides of life in the cube farm is that it’s impossible not to listen in on conversations at least occasionally. As hard as you try to avoid it, you’re going to pick up way more than you have any interest in knowing about the people you’re sitting in close proximity to for eight hours a day. You’ll come to know everything from health and personal life to bathroom habits and carryout preferences (my personal favorite is when they’re trying to have a quiet argument with their spouse over the phone). Being a bit of a tech head, I always seem to notice when someone brings up the topic.

This morning, I overheard someone ranting quietly about people sending him text messages, as in “I’m 47 years old. People got no business sending me text messages. If they want to talk to me, they need to pick up the phone.” Why hello there 1954, it’s nice to meet you. This kind of attitude is troubling in someone who has access to every modern communication technology, up to and including A/V via satellite. If he’s this resistant to something as basic as a text message, what are the chances he’s going to be open to anything that really changes the way he gets his job done?

This post has served as nothing more than a reminder that flexibility is important in life. It’s no less important as a professional. If text messaging is enough to stress this guy out, I hope I’m not around when a real stressor comes along. I’m pretty sure scrubbing blood out of upholstery is outside the scope of my job description.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date

Default and disfunction…

Watching the nightly news or reading the newspaper headlines is something of a lesson in dysfunction. If the two major political parties that have run the country for the last 100 odd years can’t come to grips with the fact that the thought of the US Government defaulting on its debt should be unthinkable, perhaps it’s time to consider the value of having either of those parties around. The men who founded this republic literally risked their lives just by signing a document proclaiming themselves free from Great Britain. Today’s politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are so entrenched in ideology and in playing to their base that they seem willing to let the ship of state sink with all flags flying and their hands around each other’s throat. So much for heroics. So much for for their obligation to the republic they were elected to serve.

I’m not a mathematician, but the formula seems obvious. For the staggering debt this country labors under to come down, spending must decrease and revenue must increase. Yes, some social programs will go away and that will hurt some people. Yes, some taxes will go up and that will hurt some people also. It’s going to be painful for many of us to adjust to a world more austere than then one we think we’re entitled to. It was painful for our grandparents, too, when they went though the “economic adjustment” of the Great Depression, but they emerged from it and worse to be recognized as our greatest generation.

Where are our great leaders today? Where’s our FDR with his Hundred Days? Where’s this generation’s Reagan standing toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union? Where’s our Kennedy calling on men to reach the moon? Where’s our Nixon opening China? Maybe such men don’t even exist anymore. Today’s politicians aren’t fit to carry the water for those giants of the 20th century and shouldn’t be in the same history books with the leaders of our distant past like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

This current crisis doesn’t have to end in catastrophe, but only if the men and women we’ve elected start behaving more like statesmen and less like common street thugs. How optimistic are you?

Slamming door…

Yes, I know I work in a different office than you do, but you need to get it through your thick skull that I’m not the enemy here and I’m not asking for information because I want to start a game of gottcha. The bottom line is I need this information to do my job. If what I’m going to discover in that data is somehow professionally embarrassing to you, while I feel bad about that, it’s not going to stop me from getting the information I need…

But go ahead and feel free to slam the door in my face, because now I get to go to my boss, who’s going to go to his boss, who’s going to walk across the hall to see your boss and explain that you are going to release the files I’m asking for. The only thing different is that instead of me having three days to do the analysis, I’m going to do it in one… and spend the other two stage-managing the inter-office war that you’ve decided to start.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.