1. Someone I’ve never met. The human mind is a curious thing. I’ve been given a lot of thought to how amazing it is that I can feel such visceral dislike towards someone I’ve never met, talked to, or interacted with in any way. In all likelihood I wouldn’t recognized them if we passed on the street. But in my heart of hearts I’ve wished all manner of misfortune to come crashing down on their head… purely because of circumstances. I’m utterly ambivalent about most things, but this is just one of those times where every nerve seems to get aggravated. Every now and then, though, maybe you need a little malice in your heart just to know you’re alive. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad human being or just a normal one.
2. Lack of planning. When you’ve been told that shit’s going to get real but choose to ignore that reality rather than committing resources against it, you shouldn’t be surprised or think it’s a crisis when shit actually gets real. I’ll do what I can with the time and resources I’m given, but you can damned good and well know that the days of beating myself bloody from the effort of filling a five pound bag with ten pounds of work are a long way gone and they’re never coming back.
3. Glasses. I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when the bridge of my 6 month old glasses frame just gave up. I’m not exactly hard on glasses. They go on my face at the beginning of the day and then just sit there until it’s lights out. Should be a pretty stress free existence. But hey, at least the shop where I got them can get me replacement frames under warranty in “probably 8 or 9 days.” They did offer to tape up my old frames if I wanted them to. I declined politely while resisting the temptation to cleanse their cute little shop with the purifying goodness of fire.
Tonight I have absolutely nothing to offer the internet. Off and on through the course of the day I was treated to the shrill metallic whir of a power drill disassembling and reassembling cubicles. As it turns out that sound apparently trips some long-dormant switch in my brain that renders me incapable of any kind of rational thought. Seriously. That’s just barely an exaggeration. I don’t have a clue what I worked on today, who I talked to, or even much more beyond the fact that I was there for some period of time.
The whole experience is vaguely unsettling, but maybe even more so because the renovation project we’re “just going to work through” appears to be slated to last several months. By the time it wraps up, I’ll probably count myself fortunate if my brain isn’t quite literally dripping out my ear.
And please, for the love of all things good and holy don’t get me started on the sheer jackassery of “renovating” office space that’s just barely five years old. My inner taxpayer would dearly love for someone to explain why it’s a fiducially responsible idea.
It doesn’t happen often, but there are some times, some moments, when I just don’t have the right words. Anything I manage to get down on the blank page feels somehow inadequate to the moment.
Saying a real goodbye is always a struggle. Saying a final goodbye almost beyond my weak capabilities. Since long before our written histories, honoring the dead was a task for the living. Maybe it should be hard to put those ideas into words. Maybe, at its core, goodbye should be something felt rather than something said.
Another of the too rapidly diminishing links to my youth is unexpectedly gone. My memories, though, remain – of summers spent “far away”, of learning to love the Chesapeake and those creatures that dwell on, in, and above its depths, of family in better times. Those memories remain and loom ever larger in my mind, making it that much harder to think of saying the inevitable goodbye.
As I’ve worked and reworked these few sentences tonight I keep coming back to a quote first heard long ago. One of our greatest warrior philosophers offered that “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” While it may be foolish, I’ll mourn tonight – but I’ll also be well and truly thankful that such a man lived.
This world is a little less warm and its light a little less bright for his passing.
Today is apparently time for another friendly tip from your kindly Uncle Jeff. This week we’ll take a look at how not to build trust in your audience when presenting information. Staying away from a few key missteps will go a long way towards creating the illusion of a connection between you and your audience.
First, do your best to avoid generic phrasing such as listing “increased synergy” or “maximizing capabilities” when talking about your goals. This makes you sound like someone who maybe hasn’t really given their actual goals very much thought. Try building your presentation based on actual information, ideas, and measurable goals.
Second, if in the first 30 minutes of your discussion you have found six different ways to tell the audience that everyone is in this together and extolling them to “think of it as an opportunity,” everyone in the room will automatically be suspicious of you and your scheme. That kind of power of positive thought jackassery might sounds good to an intern, but to the more jaded and cynical members of your audience, it sounds like another sales pitch for Ye Olde Oil of Snake.
So in conclusion, let me just remind you that it’s generally not necessary to work so hard to sell good ideas. Everyone knows that change can’t be stopped. It can, however, be managed. Whether it’s managed well or badly depends almost entirely on how you choose to present it, but once your audience thinks you’re up to something you might as well forget ever getting them on your side in any meaningful way.
I’m always looking for new opportunities, which is why I’m contemplating posting a Craigslist ad to see what’s lurking around the area. In my mind it would read something like this:
Single white male, minimal baggage, and minor commitment issues seeks career opportunity in the exciting field of sitting on the back porch and reading. Willing to work days, evenings, weekends, holidays, and overtime as required. Will provide own reading material principally from historical fiction, fantasy, military and political history, and some philosophy and sociology. Health insurance required. Salary negotiable. A dog friendly workplace is not negotiable. Will also consider positions requiring significant written requirements.
An on site or video demonstration of my capabilities is available upon request. All reasonable offers will be considered. Thank you for your time, attention, and consideration. I look forward to working with you in the near future.
I start most mornings with a quick review of the news – usually a scan of BBC, CNN, Fox, Washington Post, New York Times, and London Times. The one thing they all have in common this morning is that they’re screaming the arrival of a new economic collapse. The reader comment sections are even worse. Fear in the market is an ugly, ugly thing.
If I were fifteen years closer to retirement seeing the Dow bleed off 600 points in one trading session might ratchet up my pucker factor a bit. In my experience, though, it pays to remember that in financial markets time is generally your friend. Markets go up. Markets go down. But over the long term the trend has always clawed its way higher.
With six hundred points down I’m looking around the house wondering what I can sell to put my hands on cold hard cash. If I had a big pile of it just sitting around not doing anything, I’d be buying this dip with both hands… because in 20 years no one is going to even remember what a “Brexit” was. It’s one of those times where it really pays to take the long view.
1. Sales tactics. We live in the real world. I’m perfectly capable of understanding that the price of everything generally tends to go up over time. It’s the nature of inflation. Fine. I don’t know who the marketing executive who decided it was a good idea to make everything smaller while also charging more for it, though. I really truly don’t mind paying more for a product I was going to buy anyway… but I hate the hell out of paying more for less while being expected not to notice that everything from packaged coffee to toilet paper is half the size it use to be.
2. Parties. You’d think retirement parties would be moments of supreme satisfaction. In my experience no matter how nice they are they can’t help but being a reminder that we all spend our lives trading youth for a few bags of cash and some nice words at the end. No matter how well laid on, I always find them just a little bit depressing.
3. Information. I need to get my fingerprints taken. The why isn’t germane important to the story. What is germane, however, is that I spent some of this week calling several of the places the State of Maryland say are approved on their website. Each of the three places I called were only too happy to inform me that they don’t do those pesky state-approved prints any more. It seems to me that if the state is going to mandate prints they might at least be able to tell you where to go to get them. Then again that presupposes that the state has any interest in actually facilitating this particular type of lawful commerce instead of making it enough of a pain in the ass that the average person might be tempted to give up.
I found out this week that one of my oldest friends was going to be in the area over the weekend. Of course I’m using “in the area” here in the broadest possible sense of the word to mean somewhere within a three hour radius. There are precious few things that might tempt me out of the house, but the chance to nosh on steaks, have a few cold beverages, and shoot the shit telling stories about the olden days is just too good an opportunity to pass up.
From that long ago day – almost fourteen years past now – when we met as interns at a Shoney’s in Petersburg, Virginia to a few golden years in the District to the misadventure that was life in west Tennessee to our continued years in service to the great green machine there’s plenty of ground to cover. He’s one of the very few people from back there at the dawn of time who I’ve managed to stay in contact with. Even more important, he’s one of the few living human beings who I’ve learned to trust implicitly.
When we last parted company, I remarked that I always counted myself fortunate to play the role of Sherman to his Grant. I still do… and just now I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit down and rehash our war stories. Think of it as a mid-career assessment of just what the hell we’re doing and the long strange road that got us here. It’s a hell of a long way from where the story started.
In part 658 of the ongoing saga of network access and availability from my desk, I present to you the following question: Which capability to you need more on a day to day basis, reliable access email or consistent access to whatever websites the gods on Olympus have decided not to block today?
It’s not a trick question in any way. Having one or the other is simply a fact of life at least once a week. Of course we’re never asked to pick which one we’d like to do without for between 15 minutes and 8 hours, but the one thing you can rely on is that whichever one collapses, it will be the one you actually needed in order to get something done. On extra special bonus days they both fail simultaneously and for at least 1.5 working days.
While it’s true that this big green machine ran for a very long time before the advent of desktop computing, it’s also true that almost no one now working in it remembers those days. And even for those few who do remember acetate view graphs and carbon paper, there simply aren’t the processes, procedures, materials, or equipment to throw the whole operation into the Way Back Machine for a few hours while the network monkeys figure out what plug got kicked out.
I know it sounds like I rant about the tech side of the job way too often, but when they keep setting me up, it would be irresponsible of me not to keep knocking them down.
There are four little words that have caused no end to the amount of grief in my life. Those words: Yes sir. Can do. Four words. Eleven letters. And almost every single pain in the ass soup sandwich starts off with them flying out of my mouth in response to some vague, but ridiculous request for something that has to happen on a vertical timeline.
Maybe the real problem here is making the mistake of showing too much – or any – competence. The minute anyone figures out that you have a knack for turning a big steaming pile into something more palatable, your fate is more or less sealed. You’re going to be a fixer for the rest of your career or until you jump to a different organization where you might win yourself the ability to play dumb for a few months before you accidentally do too much, too fast and out yourself again. Then the whole vicious cycle repeats itself.
If you happen to have a certain personality type, there’s no way to avoid it really. You’re going to be pulled in by the siren’s song of getting shit done and those four little words will jack you all sorts of up.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.