1. A crowded room. There’s something (well, maybe everything) about the roar of a crowded room. It’s truly the sound I hate most in the world. So many people. So needy. So many questions. All overlapping, running together, and becoming indistinguishable from all the constituent sounds, as every voice gets louder in a failed attempt to project itself above the others. Just listening to it consumes every bit of energy I can muster. Truly hell is just a room full of other people.
2. Own it. One of the marks of a decent human being, in my opinion, has always been their willingness to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions. A decent person owns it, even when they’ve cocked up. I can’t list the number of times this week, “Yep, I fucked that up” has come flying out of my mouth. I might not do it with a song In my heart, but the one promise I can make is that I’ll stand the hell up and be counted for the bad as well as the good. If only showing that kind of personal courage was part of some kind of organizational system of basic values. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.
3. Slobs. You are grown ass adults representing some of the largest corporations in the world. Stuffing a banana peel beneath your seat for someone else to deal with, much like an ill-behaved toddler, really should be beneath your dignity. Even if it’s not beneath your dignity you should damned well be old enough to know better. Even if neither one of those is the case, I’m more than happy to disabuse you of the notion that you’re in any way special and deserving of delicate treatment. You’re just a douchebag. Hopefully I’ll see you doing it tomorrow so I can tell you to your face.
Of the two interviews I went on in the last month, I’ve received one “we regret to inform you letter,” and one call back for another meeting. Based on my experiences with Uncle’s hiring process, that’s actually a decent result. The call back means I most likely was at the top of the list after the interview process and stood a 30 minute sit down away from getting an offer. Normally I’d feel good about that… though of course you and I know I always prefer to do things that hard way.
The first email out of my box this morning was a quick “thank you for the opportunity to interview, but I no longer wish to be considered for this position.” I was more flowery and diplomatic than that, but the end result was the same – I put a knife in what was just about a guaranteed path out. It’s an uneasy feeling, especially knowing that it may very well poison that well for a long time going forward.
Still, I know taking myself out of contention was the right decision. During the interview, the panel chair mentioned a two word phrase that filled me with an unholy dread – noting in his introduction that the position for which I was interviewing was designated as a “team lead.” Now I can tell you right from the jump that ol’ Jeff doesn’t like the sound of that one little bit. I’ve done my stint as an honest to God supervisor and the very last thing I wan to do is step foot back on that slippery slope. It’s doubly true when that lowest rung on the management ladder comes with all sorts of responsibility but none of the actual authority. Worse, it comes without even more than a nominal bump in salary.
More headache for the same money is bad math no matter what way you look at it. That’s what really drove me to put an end to it. It doesn’t put me in an better a position than I was in a month ago… but it also doesn’t make things even worse so we’ll just call it a draw.
You could fill an entire sheet of paper with what annoys Jeff this week. I know this because I have just such a piece of paper in front of me while I’m typing this. Look at any three lines on that page and you’ll find three things that sent my blood pressure soaring into new and probably dangerous heights. The state of my cardio-vascular system, though, isn’t the point.
Instead of reading you the full list this week, I’ll offer commentary on just one – the one that is the most troubling, and pernicious. As Spiderman tells us, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s true enough, but what Spidey almost never talks directly about is how frequently people with that power abrogate their responsibility.
When that happens you have power making decisions based on optics rather than effectiveness… and once you have people more worried about how something looks in the photo op than how well it works in reality, you’ve lost any shred of credibility. Sure, you have the power to make those decisions. No one is going to stop you. They may not say anything, because everyone is terrified of telling truth to power, but they’ll judge you for it for the rest of your days. Sure, you can make people do stupid things, you can make them smile and take it, but you can never, ever make them like you or respect you as a human being.
The scope and power of all levels of government should be limited and the burden of maintaining that government should be a cost borne by all Americans, from the poorest to the wealthiest. The rights guaranteed by the Constitution are not simple recommendations, but the absolute and highest law of the land and must be aggressively defended against those who seek to deny them. Protecting the territorial integrity of the United States is the single most important obligation of the federal government. The only appropriate legitimate “path to citizenship” involves respecting the following the laws and regulations governing immigration. Government should have no voice in defining love – or even lust – between two consenting adults. Locking people up for smoking marijuana is stupid. A woman’s right to access a relatively safe abortion has been the law of the land for over 40 years and it’s time we accept that. Our head of state is the president, not Jesus Christ, so let’s not pretend we want to live in that world unless we’re also willing to give Odin, Zeus, Mithras, Satan, and Buddha equal billing. The guy next door, or the one in the next county over, doesn’t owe you a damned thing. The only thing you as an individual are owed is the opportunity to be happy and successful, but that depends largely on how hard you’re willing to work and what you’re ready to sacrifice to reach your goals.
As it turns out, there isn’t a candidate in the 2016 presidential election who hits all those check boxes. I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because I’ll never be convinced by equivocating investigators that she’s not an unindicted felon. I fundamentally disagree with her positions on so many issues of importance to me and deep down I just don’t trust her. Plaudits from the current administration that labeled her “the best qualified candidate in the history of the republic ever,” surprisingly did nothing to assuage my distrust. Representing the party I find myself most often aligned with, I have Donald Trump… the candidate who started off as an interesting outsider who seems to become more unhinged with every passing afternoon. Despite agreeing that we need to build one big ass wall on the southern border, I can’t seem to find a way in good conscience to vote for a man who condemns prisoners of war and gold star families.
With all that said, I believe one more thing. I believe that the best candidate for the Presidency of the United States in 2016 doesn’t come cloaked as a Democrat or a Republican. Like the others, he doesn’t hit all of my sweet spots. In fact his draconian proposals for defense spending are directly opposed to my own self interest in continuing to be paid out of that big pot of money. This election can’t be about my paycheck. It has to be a matter of principle… and even though we disagree on a few issues I believe Gary Johnson is far more qualified to sit behind the Resolute desk than either huckster the major parties have presented to us.
On Tuesday, November 8th I’ll cast my vote for Gary Johnson for President and Bill Weld for Vice President. I hope you’ll consider doing the same. I believe it’s the only reasonable and responsible option left to us.
1. Lacking consistency. A few weeks ago a kid jumped a fence and made his way into a gorilla enclosure at a zoo. Social media erupted with criticism of the parents who let this happen and the zoo administrators who opted to kill the gorilla. A few days a go a kid waded in to a lake in central Florida and was killed by an alligator. Social media erupted with criticism of Disney for not having put up signs warning about the potential presence of said alligators. There’s barely a mention of the two grown adult humans who reasonably might have been expected to know that alligators are common in Florida, if not knowing that nighttime and shallow water are among their favored feeding conditions. On one hand we have the captive, but “cute and cuddly” mammal and on the other the “scary” looking reptile living in its natural habitat. I’d simply be remiss if I didn’t comment on the complete lack of consistency with which people and the media responded to these two different, but very similar events. As usual, I’m forced to come down on the side of the animals, if only because humans are apparently too oblivious to their surroundings to be allowed to operate anywhere within 500 yards of animals larger than the family cat.
2. Knowing me. Yesterday someone actually opened their mouth and suggested that I might enjoy going to the Firefly music festival being held in Dover this weekend. I really didn’t know how to respond to that. A weekend camping out with nearly 100,000 unbathed concertgoers sounds like the third or forth level of my own personal hell. Honestly. It’s like some people just don’t get me at all.
3. We are a “technology” organization. When the computer, that most basic piece of office technology for the last 20 years, decides not to function there’s precious little I’m able to do that could even be accidentally thought of as productive. There’s only so much time you can spend staring at the ceiling, playing with the paper shredder, and walking loops around the hallway. Without access to email, various websites, and sundry databases there is simply not practical way to do my job through no fault of my own. Since this situation is bound to happen again, it would be helpful if everyone could remember that when my system is eventually placed back in service after a four working day absence, there’s going to be a backlog. I’ll work through it and answer requests for information in as logical an order of importance as I can manage to discern. I will do so as quickly and efficiently as meetings, additional tasks from the bosses, and other office distractors allow. What I will not do, however, is accomplish 4 days worth of work in the six hours of the day still available. I’m happy to take the blame when I’m responsible, but I’m damned well not going to take heat for processes, procedures, and equipment nonavailability that is utterly beyond the scope of my authority to change or even influence.
I have a very simple rule here at Fortress Jeff: When bad things happen as a result of piss poor decision making, the buck stops with me. I get the credit for the good stuff so it’s only fair that I take the blame when my decisions go awry.
When I was 20 years old and walked into the cave-like bar in the basement of the Hotel Gunter, I knew damned well and good I was under the legal drinking age. I also knew they’d serve me. When the local constabulary arrived asking to see everyone’s papers, I wasn’t the victim of a totalitarian police state. I was the victim of being a stupid 20 year old making my own bad decisions.
Four years later, when my beloved Jeep was broken into. The slash and grab cost me a few hundred dollars of CDs and an ashtray full of change. Yes, I blame the criminal for breaking into a locked vehicle, but I share the burden of blame because I left an easy target sitting in plain sight. If there hadn’t been something of obvious value in clear view I wonder if he’d have passed on to the next target of opportunity.
If nothing else, social media has shown me that we live in a world where people think we should just all love one another and there are butterflies and peppermint sticks at every turn. The reality is that we live in a world where bad things happen and where there are natural consequences that accompany every action. When you play stupid games, there’s a strong probability that you will win stupid prizes. No amount of wishing it different will change that.
I’m not here to shame any victims or absolve the fault of any criminals, but I am here to say that we’re all responsible for our own behaviors and actions. Bad things happen to good people all the time. The very best thing we can do as individuals is to understand the important relationship between action and consequence and the do our best to mitigate our personal risk factors. One awfully easy way of reducing the number of bad things that could happen to you is to give it some thought before you walk down a dark alley alone, or leave your computer laying on the back seat of your car, or drink until you’re blind drunk. People with bad intentions are out there already and they may do horrible things anyway, but it damned well doesn’t mean we should make ourselves an easy mark because we think we’ll be untouched by other people’s bad decisions and immune to the consequences of our own.
1. Flint River water. Look, if I open my spigot and the resulting water is brown and filled with particulates, I’m not going to drink it no matter what local officials tell me about its safety. That’s exactly what I don’t hear from news reports coming out of Michigan. There are plenty of reports though of people who continued who were drinking away, despite what some might consider an obvious problem with the water… and now suddenly they’re surprised by the spate of health issues that have resulted. I’m afraid these Michiganders have fallen victim to two fallacies: 1) The government is looking out for your best interests and 2) Anyone else has ultimate responsibility for what you put in your body. While there is very clear blame to be laid on the state and local government in this case, there’s more than enough to spread around to individuals who failed to exercise their own personal responsibility in protecting their health and wellbeing.
2. A report out of the National Transportation Safety Board calls for the total ban of cell phones while driving, claiming it’s a distraction. Well bugger off. Everything inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle that’s not the steering wheel, gear shift, accelerator, and brake pedal is a distraction. The radio is a distraction. That drive-thru grease-burger is a distraction. Crying children in the back seat are a distraction. Bees flying through an open window are a distraction. So while we’re going, let’s ban all the distractions and save so many, many lives. We’ll do away with radios and drive-thrus, crying children and roll-down windows. We’ll cover the damned cars in bubble wrap and install an engine governor ensuring they can never go faster than 15 miles per hour. Fine, safety is important. While hurtling around in a one ton metal bullet we should all be paying attention to what we’re doing. What I don’t understand is what on earth anyone thinks passing one more law making a specific subset of distracted driving illegal (which in many jurisdictions it already is) will really do. Prohibition didn’t stop drinking. The war on drugs didn’t stop drug use. I have a hard time believing a ban on cell phones is going to stop people from checking that next text message. Don’t even get me started on the jackassery of how anyone might plan to enforce such legislation once it’s law.
3. The choices. Despite my personal preference for one of the other alternatives it appears more and more likely that 364 days (plus a leap year) from today, America is going to inaugurate a socialist, an unindicted felon, a megalomaniac billionaire, or a former Canadian citizen as President of the United States. Let that sink in for a moment if you will. I could launch into a long rant about how we got here, but frankly we’re more or less stuck with this band of misfits in 2016. My real question, the one that’s going to haunt me in my sleep, is how we get well from here. What’s it going to take to find some legitimate leadership in America in 2020 or are we henceforward and forever doomed to have such pretenders enthroned as the heirs of Washington and Jefferson?