It’s a skill…

I’d hate to calculate how many hours of training I’ve sat through over the last thirteen years. Only occasionally, when it was hosted in such exotic locations as Tampa or Dallas, have I ever voluntarily inflicted such opportunities on myself. Far more often it’s a statutory or regulatory requirement or worse drawing the short straw as a seat filler. Occasionally you can draw off some nugget of useful information, but more often it’s a study in watching the clock creep from one hour to the next.

Like so many other meetings, the first question asked by the would-be trainer should be “Can I convey this information in an email?” If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, you should write the email and forget about the training. If the answer is no, you may proceed with your planned training, but understand that anything of value or importance should be covered before 11AM, by which time all but a handful of the most dedicated and/or fanatical people will have stopped paying attention anyway.

Trainers tend to take this disinterest personally. They shouldn’t, because it has almost nothing to do with them or even with their content. You could be talking to me about the next sure fire way to make a million in the market and if you haven’t gotten to your point in the first three hours I’m going to lose interest. That’s just the way it is. I’ll most likely be polite and not focus all my attention on my phone. I’ll probably even nod at appropriate intervals and because of my years of practice I can probably even materially contribute to the conversation  just based on whatever I’ve managed to overhear while most of my brain was otherwise occupied. It’s a skill, but not one anyone ever talks about.

But there it is. I’ve done my duty. Attended the training. Checked off another box. And as a reward, I don’t get any new knowledge, but I do get to look forward to trying to cram two days worth of work into a Tuesday and who doesn’t like that?

Something between tragedy and farce…

I disengage from the news over the weekend and apparently even the Klan has decided to make an endorsement in this election. Sigh. It’s the one time Maryland’s late-in-the-season primary is a blessing. The only time I see this noise is when I start reengaging with the world on Sunday night or when I stumble across something let lying about on Facebook.

Tonight I’m mostly thinking about what Republican stalwarts like Eisenhower, Taft, Dewey, and Goldwater would make of the shambles we’ve created out of the party they built us. There was some incredibly incendiary infighting between the wings of the party in their day too, but they managed to make it work without dragging the whole body politic down into the flames. Maybe that’s just business as usual now.

This election increasingly feels like a race towards the bottom between neo-socialism and proto-fascism – something between tragedy and farce. If these are the choices we’ve made, perhaps the whole self-government thing was a terrible, terrible mistake.

Is it too late to cast a write in vote for a candidate from the House of Hanover to reign in glory?

Digging in the archives…

From time to time I go stumbling through the vast pile of electronic paperwork I’ve generated for myself over the years looking for one or two particular nuggets. I generally find what I’m looking for because my filing system, to some, might seem to verge on the anal retentive. It works for me so retentive or not, I like it.

Warehouse.jpgOccasionally during one of those trips down into the archives I come across material that’s been out of sight so long I’ve rather forgotten about it. This week’s trek back into the files was one such occasion. I’ve discovered a set of posts I wrote long ago and far away. Some of them are quite good. Then again some of them are pretty bad. Unlike the great effort several years ago to compile my entire “official” blogging history onto this one site, these posts never ended up published under my name and I think it’s probably time to bring them home.

I haven’t gone through the whole package yet, but I’m guessing there could be as many as 50 previously unseen posts just waiting for fresh eyes. Most of them will probably make the cut, though a few will likely remain private due to the nature of the topic, a clear linkage to an actual person either living or dead, or just because it’s a poorly formed though. Even saying that, I expect most of this particular treasure trove will be suitable for wide release.

Starting tonight and running every Friday until I exhaust this freshly turned earth, http://www.jeffreytharp.com will feature one of these gems from the archives for your reading pleasure. With the exception of correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues I expect to publish these posts without editorial revision as they were originally published.

I hope you’ll give them a read and let me know what you think.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Looking busy. If I’m sitting at my desk intently staring at my monitor, I may not look busy in the traditional sense. Just because I don’t “look busy” it’s best to assume, however, that I am. They pay me to use my brain. It’s exhausting. It takes a lot of effort. Sadly, that effort is generally not expressed as wild flailing of arms or by performing backflips. If I’m sitting quietly and looking hard at something, just go ahead and assume I’m busy and it’s not a good time for whatever drivel you were about to spew from your filthy pie hole.

2. 2PM slowdown. Every day for weeks now my PC grinds to an agonizing crawl at almost precisely 2PM. Every. Single. Day. It’s like some kind of half-assed water torture designed to see just how far they can push a desk-bound employee before they finally snap and start bludgeoning the IT staff with an antiquated Dell Latitudes.

3. Thank you for the important work you do. It’s one of the most often platitudes offered by leaders everywhere I suspect. I’m not sure there was every a more meaningless statement devised in the English language. It’s even more farcical when you’re being thanked for spending most of the week serving no higher purpose than using your years of experience and multiple degrees to manage the calendar for an overgrown conference room. It’s a damned good thing no one came by asking what I did for the “customer” this week. I’ve been in a foul enough mood that I might slip up and tell them the truth.

Getting sweaty…

I have nothing but admiration for the people I see on Facebook and Twitter who seem to be desperately in love with your daily workout. Seriously, I’m jealous that you find it that deeply satisfying. By contrast I largely just end up sweaty and feeling like I’ve wasted 45 minutes that could have been better allocated to doing something I enjoy. After spending 8 hours largely doing things I don’t really want to do, another 45 minutes of the same when I get home is largely just adding insult to injury. It’s something I grudgingly do because my crazy Teutonic doctor says I have to. Nothing more, nothing less.

I know if I asked for recommendations, I’d be flooded with calls of try this program or that coach or this supplement and that shake. The best recommendations, well intentioned I’m sure, usually point me towards joining a gym and getting a trainer. Someone to hold me accountable. I’m sure that makes sense intellectually, but honestly if I’m going to pay someone by the hour to make me sweat, I think there are probably far more stimulating options than heading to a gym.

The Starbucks Entitlement, or Give Me Free Shit…

The internet (or at least Twitter) lit up briefly this morning when Starbucks announced that they are going to change the way customers earn loyalty program points. Customers were outraged that the company was changing how various “elite” status levels are reached and how much money they would have to spend before they qualified to “get something free.”

Since I moved to the sticks and don’t drive past half a dozen Starbucks locations on my daily commute maybe I feel this change a little less acutely than the average overpriced coffee drinker. Or maybe it’s just a beautifully wrapped case-in-point of everything that is wrong with America today… because customers, presumably regular customers who enjoy Starbucks products and services, are now up in arms because the company is making it just a little bit harder to get free shit.

Let that idea sit with you for a while. Starbucks, a business that exists for the purpose of making money through the sale of coffee and related ephemera, actually wants its customers to spend a little more money before getting something for nothing. I’ll even take it a step further and directly question when we as a society decided that it was our God given right to expect people and business to give their products away. Somehow we’ve managed to take a gesture of goodwill and thanks – a free cup of coffee – and twist it into some kind of entitlement.

I learned from a young age that sometimes life is tough. The world doesn’t owe you a damned thing besides the chance to work hard, scrape, and make something for and of yourself. Past that, you’re not entitled to a thin dime – or a $5 cup of coffee – from anyone else. So when you do get something for nothing, be appreciative instead of immediately taking to the internet to cry that it’s just not enough.

If you think you’re getting a raw deal from Starbucks take your business elsewhere. There are hundreds of businesses that would be happy enough to take your money. Better yet, go get yourself a nice Italian coffee machine so you can cut out the middle man and *gasp* learn to brew your very own java. You’ll save a lot more money doing that than you’ll earn back through any customer loyalty program.

As always, not a sermon, just a though.

A fractured coalition…

From my vantage point I’ve always thought the conservative coalition that makes up the Republican Party in America consisted of three mostly aligned legs – the religio-social, the economic, and the defense oriented elements of the Grand Old Party. For the last fifty-odd years their interests have more or less aligned and policy differences have been manageable. What I’m looking at now in the wake of a caucus and two primaries, though, seems to show a coalition that’s fragmenting further each day. I suspect the primary results we’re seeing are the first deep clefts in a political party that’s in the process of shredding itself.

There’s no constitutional ordination that requires there be but two political parties in America, though for most of our history there has been a two party system. It’s a system that has mostly given a helpful shorthand for people deciding between differing opinions on large blocks of issues. In Great Britain there are currently 13 parties represented in the House of Commons. In other parliamentary democracies that number can be much higher. If you think politics in a two-party system are challenging, you wouldn’t believe the circus that leading a real coalition government can bring along with it.

I’m not saying the two party American system is an artifact of an earlier age, just that other options exist and are practiced. I am saying, however, that there’s a very real chance that in our lifetimes we might expect to see the Republican Party fractured into a handful elephant.fail.JPGor more of its constituent parts. It’s not as if the evangelicals, budget hawks, libertarians, tea partiers, and defense hawks even have all that much in common any more. Most of us on this side of the aisle stand in one or more of those camps, but damned few of us stand in all of them. It’s harder still when each group cries that they are the only “true” conservative voice.

For better or worse, America is changing. We can seek to manage that change in appropriate and productive ways or we can collectively decide to pretend it’s not happening at all. Conservatives led this country through the fat years of prosperity in the 1950s, the opening of relations with China, and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. We could be that party again, but it’s going to mean giving up the bullshit of having some kind of purity test. It means being a little less fanatical and a little more tolerant of new ideas and different solutions. It means we have to talk not just to ourselves, but also to the Democrats, the moderates, the unaligned, and to anyone who’s willing to listen to our best-reasoned alternatives rather than to our inflamed rhetoric.

By way of alternative we can stay the course and let the party descend into factional squabbling and ensure that a conservative doesn’t sit in the Oval Office again for twenty years. The choices are ours – and so are the consequences.