Tools of the Devil (Part I)…

PowerPoint is a tool of the devil. This is apparently obvious to the casual observer after a long week of slogging through slides changing “happy” to “glad” and making sure that every bullet is lined up within +/- one micron. Apparently there’s nothing that makes a senior manager feistier than an ever-so-slightly misaligned bullet. Better for key content to be left out than to risk it violating the sanctity of the holy format. I’ve been doing this a long time now and I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the hours of obsession that some men can pour into finessing their slides so they’re juuuusssssssst right. I remember reading somewhere that perfect is the enemy of the good. In an imperfect world, I’ve always been happy when I find myself in the neighborhood of good. Apparently that is a very lonesome neighborhood.

I like to think that if we lived in some bizarro universe and I were a senior leader, I’d be more concerned with the content over how it happens to be displayed as long as it was in some semblance of logical order. Then again, maybe that’s the part of the brain you give up upon being elevated to echelons above reality. There’s not much chance of my ever finding out for myself, so I’m left once again to ponder the importance of issues of style over substance.

I’m reminded of the Army colonel who was relieved because of this epic rant against PowerPoint. As it turns out, the Army would probably have been better served to promote the guy rather than tossing him out.

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.

Logic…

I like keeping my phone on a belt clip. It’s geeky and will never be a fashion-correct approach, but it’s convenient and that trumps either of those other considerations. I’m also finicky about the clip and case combination I use. It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I like things precisely the way I like them… and pretty much no other way. This past weekend, the clip caught on something and broke so I’ve been attempting to make due sans clip for the time being. That’s not going particularly well given the combination of pen knife, keys, and other random ephemera that ends up in my pockets.

Having dropped my phone more in the last four days than I’ve dropped any phone over the last four years, I’m forced to concede a change is in order. There’s a method to my madness, of course. Things here seldom happen without there being some underlying logic to them. Even if it’s logic that only makes sense between my own ears.

In a herculean fit of warped reasoning, it occurred to me that spending $30 on a clip to fit a phone I’m due to replace any time now is kind of like putting new tires on a car you’re about to trade in. In my mind, addled as it is by years of accounting for money in those special ways that only Uncle Sam can fathom, the more logical thing to do was to go ahead and buy a new phone and a new clip now instead of waiting another month or two. Let that percolate for a moment if you will. Somewhere in my head it sounded perfectly reasonable to spend $900 on a new phone and then $60 on a new case and clip than it did to spent $30 for a replacement clip to keep the old phone in operation a bit longer.

If anyone wants to know the exact date and time I realized I’ve spent too long working for the government it was Saturday, November 19th, 2016 around 2PM… When I decided spending $960 to save $30 somehow made sense. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed for the time being… though I still don’t have an acceptable or convenient way to keep my phone tethered to me at all times so the whole experience has been decidedly unsatisfying for all involved.

Mixed signals…

I grew up in a part of Maryland where it’s possible to stand in one spot and see well into both Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Inter-state rivalries were common and a “mixed” relationship could easily mean one part of a couple was a WVU fan and one cheered for UMD. Most people are (reasonably) good natured about it.

Confederate_Rebel_FlagWhile I was home, though, I saw something I couldn’t bring myself to reconcile – Flying side by side from someone’s shed were the West Virginia state flag and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (or what the internet is determined to call the “Confederate Flag”).

I don’t mind state pride (even though this individual was flying the WV flag over the sovereign soil of the great state of Maryland). Flying the battle flag doesn’t bother me (even thought, again, we happened to be standing in a part of the country that was never even tangentially represented by that flag). What annoyed me to no end, of course, was that the West Virginia flag and any flag representing forces of the Confederate Flag_of_West_VirginiaStates of America are, historically speaking, mutually exclusive. They’re so mutually exclusive that the entire state of West Virginia was created in order to make that fact absolutely clear to everyone who may have been confused.

The voice in my head who just wants everyone to have some semblance of logic supporting what they do urged me in the strongest possible way to pull over just to ask the guy in the driveway what, exactly, was the point he thought he was making. The other part of my brain, the one given over to self preservation and not wanting to get my ass kicked by a redneck yokel told me to just keep moving… so I did… but I’m dying to know what kind of tortured logic is banging around that guy’s head.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Drivers who think they can, but really can’t. Look, I like speed. I have the tickets and warnings to prove it. Generally I feel as safe with my own driving at 85 as I do at 25. Sadly, I can’t say I have the same level of confidence in everyone else on the road… especially the wannabe rice racer who cut the turn just a little to wide this morning and earned himself some first hand experience in how understeering is every bit as bad as oversteering . He should probably be allowed to get some kind of refund from his driving instructor. On the other hand, I have now personally seen the look of abject horror someone in a Honda Civic gets on their face when they find themselves unexpectedly traveling in the wrong lane with a Tundra bearing down on them. Hopefully he didn’t spend too long in the ditch, because that’s where he was headed when I rounded the next turn and rolled on with my morning commute.

2. Breaking my own rules. I think we all know that I hate speakerphones in an open-bay office setting. It really serves no purpose other than ratcheting up the noise level in a room that already has the acoustics of a train station. I was forced into a position of breaking my own rules today by participating in part of a call using a speakerphone in a “wide open” room. I was mortified, but it happened so fast that I couldn’t stop it. I have no other excuses. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

3. Too much of a bad thing. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: I don’t think I’ve ever attended a meeting that I didn’t want to escape from within five minutes of it starting. Sadly, my opinion doesn’t seem to carry much weight when such decisions are made. Which is how you end up with so many meetings scheduled between now and the end of the month that the “September Meeting to Discuss Issue X” has to be moved into October. You might think that means the “October Meeting to Discuss Issue X” would get cancelled. You would be wrong, because what it really means is that we should just go ahead and have two “Meetings to Discuss Issue X” in October. So as soon as the ten pre-meeting meetings for the October “September Meeting” are finished, we get to immediately start on pre-meetings for the October “October Meeting.” Clearly common sense, logic, and reason have no place here.

NATO…

The logic behind protesting against the one international institution that has actually accomplished anything since its inception is sort of beyond me. The UN, that loveable gaggle of windbags created in San Francisco and headquartered in New York, never seems to be able to find its ass with both hands and a map. On their watch North Korea got the bomb and Iran seems to be right behind them, the Middle East is as much a hotbed now as it was fifty years ago, and a dozen genocides and failed peacekeeping missions dot its less than impressive resume. Since 1945, the UN has been the preeminent forum for talking about the world’s problems and promptly doing nothing about them.

By way of comparison, the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty have spent the last 60-odd years deterring communist aggression, policing Bosnia and Yugoslavia, raising arms against the common foe when the United States was attacked in 2001, and more recently using air power and special forces troops to knock over a two bit dictatorship in Libya. It seems to me, all of those are good and commendable things to do.

So yeah, when it comes to understanding why the streets of Chicago are full of protestors, all I can do is scratch my head. Godspeed Chicago PD, knock heads and take names… and try to get a few licks in for those of us who can’t be there in person to help out.

Ladies lying about in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government…

I’m generally considered a pretty smart guy, but I have never understood the thought process that goes on in the mind of chicks when they are making potentially life altering decisions. I’m a planner by habit as well as by profession and one thing I can say with a far degree of certainty is that “butterfly feelings” in the stomach area and how cute it was because he cried are generally not major planning considerations. In fact, I’d go so far to say that they are, in fact, a poor basis for any decision-making process.

Decisions of significance are made after careful analysis of the possible and likely outcomes, the severity of risks, consultation with subject matter experts, and a through “scrub” to make sure you are even asking the right questions. Without applying an overlay of logic to the process, decisions basically become “guesses.” And quite frankly, it has been my experience that life is far too short and time is far too precious to stumble from one point to another based on my best guess

I don’t mind dispensing advice; in fact I rather enjoy doing it. But please, ladies, when you ask, remember that I’m going to apply logical analysis to the situation rather than take stock in whatever butterfly effect you might be feeling. And if at some point one of you can explain to me what I’m missing here, please, please clue me in. I’m serious here people, I know there are a lot of you out there who read on a regular basis. I just want to understand what I am working with here. Can one of you dear readers enlighten me?

Two day pass…

Having slept in until a ridiculously late 7:00 this morning, I’m feeling rested and ready to again take over the world. I’m on a two day pass to get some things done around the house… think laundry, lawn care, and general cleaning… and then I’m on the road to Richmond for a week. As an aside, there’s no good way to get from Memphis to Richmond. Apparently, the only way to do it on a Sunday is to go through Newark, New Jersey as an intermediate step. I’m sure there is a logic to the way airlines do what they do, but I’m damned if I can figure it out.