What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Your iPad is not a video camera. Just because it has that capability doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to whip out your tablet computer and start swinging it around trying to catch the perfect shot. They make small hand held devices specifically for that purpose. In a pinch, catching a quick video clip with your phone is even a perfectly acceptable solution in most cases. The only things that really happen when you hoist your iPad over your head to catch that unmissable moment are: 1) You get bad quality video and audio recording of an event that’s allegedly important to you; 2) People behind you can’t see what’s going on; and 3 (and I can’t stress this one enough) You look like a total douchenozzle. It’s still a relatively free country and I can’t stop you from doing it, but you just shouldn’t want to.

2. I’m not a wizard. As I’ve stated previously and often, I can do it all, but I cannot do it all at once. I like to think that’s more a simple function of the linear nature of time rather than a personal failing on my part. You, of course, are free to disagree with that assessment. With that being said, one of the things you need to know is if you give me something to do, then tell me that I am required to go sit in a four hour long meeting, the thing you wanted me to get done will not be complete 30 minutes after the end of that meeting. I’m many things, but a wizard is not one of them. That’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s unfortunately true. I would love to be all things to all people, but so long as I continue to be given the opportunity to spend half the day in meetings that preclude doing any actual productive work, I’m afraid that’s just not going to be possible. The decisions about where I go or what I’m focused on are largely out of my own control, so sorry I’m not sorry.

3. Climbing over people in the middle of a ceremony is not acceptable. If you arrive late to a ceremony or event and things are already underway when you wander in, there really are only two acceptable courses of action: 1) Stand quietly in the back and wait for an intermission or other pause in the action to take your seat; 2) Find an open seat somewhere on the periphery and put your ass in it. What you shouldn’t do is show up two thirds the way through the event and climb over top of people who have been sitting respectfully like decent fucking human beings to get to a spot “your people” have been “saving” for you since twenty minutes before things started. What you really, really shouldn’t do is then climb back out over top of these same people after your special snowflake has been recognized and interrupt everyone within earshot for the second time in ten minutes. You my dear, inconsiderate woman, like your friend with the iPad, are a total douchenozzle.

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?

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Denali. Humans have been changing the names of places basically forever. In parts of the world that have been continuously populated for thousands of years it’s happened a lot. That’s why there isn’t currently a Sumerian city-state called Ur in southern Mesopotamia. That place is now called Tell el-Muqayyar and is located in southern Iraq. Five thousand years from now it seems pretty unlikely that it’s going to matter whether in 2015 there was a mountain in Alaska called Denali or Mt. McKinley. It seems to me that both sides are wasting a good deal of breath on something that just doesn’t really matter all that much.

2. Annual Training. Every new fiscal year starts the clock on the approximately 47,632 annual mandatory training requirements I’m supposed to take. Every year, I’m determined not to procrastinate in taking them. Every year I somehow find myself well into September and realizing that I’ve done none of them. Yes, it’s my fault that I procrastinated on checking those boxes… but perhaps if there weren’t quite so many that need checked I wouldn’t feel the need to avoid them for as long as humanly possible.

3. Do your damned job. If you’re hired to do a job and find that the requirements of the position demand something that that violates your moral or ethical code, honor demands that you resign from that position. Honor doesn’t demand that you make a spectacle of yourself by simply not doing the job (while continuing to draw salary). If your moral sensibilities aren’t troubled enough that you need to resign in protest, then they aren’t really troubled and all you’re trying to do is get your face on television. At that point you’re not a martyr to the cause, you’re a self-aggrandizing douchecanoe.

I got mine the hard way…

So I was sitting in a meeting a few days ago (because that seems to be my professional raison d’être). I won’t go into the specifics of the discussion, but the general topic was the virtue of in person training versus “virtual” training delivered online. As I was only tangentially involved in the discussion, I quickly found myself engrossed in whatever notes I had previously scribbled onto my yellow legal pad.

What pulled my attention back into the conversation was a crack out of nowhere about not really thinking of academic excellence from people who get online degrees. Now what you should do when someone five steps above you on the org chart says something that ruffles your sensibilities is sit quietly and do absolutely nothing, lest in responding you incur their wrath. Sadly, as many of you know, sitting quietly and keeping my mouth shut is something I tend to struggle with on an almost daily basis.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t go to Harvard, or Columbia, or the Wharton School of Business. I took my classes one at a time in the evenings and on weekends, while working full time, and traveling 2-3 weeks each month because that’s what Uncle said he needed me to do… so if you want to talk to me about academic excellence, I’ll be happy to go a few rounds with you on the virtue of an online education. Now I can be as elitist as anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m the one who got mine the hard way and if that doesn’t satisfy your century old notion about what constitutes “real” education, well that’s ok because I’ll be around long after your Paleolithic point of view is consigned to the pages of history.

I could have said more on the issue. That part of me that likes a good fight desperately wanted to go a dozen rounds, but I had to satisfy myself with looking an individual in the eye and telling them that as the holder of one of these online degrees, I didn’t feel educationally slighted in the least. I scored my point, but it wasn’t particularly satisfying. I didn’t want an apology or even a “present company excluded.” I simply wanted to provide a gentle reminder than no matter how high and mighty, it’s always best to know your audience before firing off at the mouth and losing credibility in the eyes of those who you would lead.

Sex ed…

My employer has a problem. As hard as it is to believe the testosterone fueled echelons of our institution have a problem with sexual assault, it’s apparently a fact. I know it’s a fact because I spent the better part of three hours watching a movie about it this afternoon. That’s added to the standard yearly on hour Sexual Assault is Bad training, and the special 57 slide PowerPoint briefing about the ways in which sexual Firing Squadassault is bad, and the incredibly awkward conversation with the boss about sexual assault.

Know what? I got the message loud and clear. Actually I got the message before anyone related to my job bothered to mention that “Hey Jeff, you know sexual assault is bad right?” It feels like something that should be pretty common knowledge… and even if it weren’t common knowledge, you’re not likely to convince someone not to do it by blinding them with PowerPoint charts.

It seems to me that if senior leaders have a problem keeping their peckers in their pants or disciplining their subordinates who have that problem, the best possible way to send a message is to convene a firing squad in the Pentagon courtyard and beam the execution live via satellite to every camp, post, FOB, depot, and station on the net. Make it a mandatory participation event so every Joe and Jane, every civilian and contractor can see that it really is a “zero tolerance” policy.

You can show movies, give briefings, and have heart-to-heart talks until you’re blue in the face, but not a damn thing is going to change until you prove that echelons higher than reality are willing to do more than talk the talk. Otherwise we’re just wasting everyone’s time pretending to give a damn.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Mandatory Training. The first time we had mandatory suicide prevention training it was fine; just one of those mandatory training requirements you have to check the box on. The second time this year they mandated additional anti-suicide training, it was a grumble. And today, for the 3rd time in less than a year, we got more suicide training. OK. Message received loud and clear. Killing myself is a violation of policy, doctrine, regulation, and possibly law. As much as I appreciate the emphasis you’re trying to place on this issue, throwing multiple hundreds of thousands of people into auditoriums across the country and telling us that suicide is bad for the third time may not be as effective as some other methods you could possibly try. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a guy in row 27 trying not to fall asleep and drool on myself.

2. Fans. For three weeks NFL fans have been raising high holy hell about the ineptitude of the replacement refs. I suspect that within 2 minutes of kickoff in Baltimore tonight, the same fans will be complaining about the over officiousness of the “professional” refs. If there’s one thing I’ve observed from many years of being surrounded by sports fans, it’s that the officials are never, ever right… unless they’re blatantly calling the game in favor of .

3. Not Knowing. I like to think I’m educated on a fairly wide number of topics. The last week has shown that one thing I’m woefully under educated about is the basics of veterinary medicine. Honestly, I’m not sure I can tell the difference between the “I’m ready for more pain killer” whine from the “I need to go outside” whine. It may be that there isn’t actually a difference, but it would still be nice to be able to do something other than pour over hundreds of internet posts from people whose dogs have had the same surgery and distill for myself what constitutes “normal” at any stage of the post-operative game.

Breaking routine…

Going for at least one post a day is a personal goal around here. I like to think I hit the mark more often than not unless there’s some intervening traumatic life event that gets in the way of sitting down and knocking out a few hundred words. Looking at the next couple of days, though, I’m just giving everyone a heads up that it might be quiet around here this week. Getting up early, driving to Baltimore, and getting home late for the next four days is going to put a squeeze on free time… and since writing occupies a big block of available time in the evenings, that’s pretty much what’s going to end up getting squeezed off the daily itinerary.

Being a dedicated creature of habit, you can well imagine how excited I am to have my finely honed scheduled screwed with for the rest of the week… and given my track record for tolerating dumb things in a training environment, I’m going to consider it a win as long as I manage to avoid getting thrown out or picking a fist fight (not necessarily in that order). Otherwise, I’d just like to get this week over as expeditiously as possible and get back to our regularly scheduled activities.

The only good thing I can think of when it comes to being stuck in training for the week is that it gives me a whole new crop of people to observe and make snarky comments about. I might not get to post these little gems right away, but rest assured I’ll be taking copious notes and the whole story will come out. Eventually. Unless the room we’re in has wifi of course, and then it’s game on from the time I walk through the door in the morning.