Voluntold

Today was the first day of the latest Not Mandatory class that I was volunteered to go to.  It is an “Emerging leaders of APG” and is like every other management class I have had to take over the past few years. In fact, the last class I was told to go to was an “Action Officers” class, and I am still waiting to use anything I learned from that class. And that is the problem with a lot of the “not” mandatory classes I have to take. They have nothing to do with what I do day in and day out, so I forget all I learned within days (if not hours).

I have no problems with taking training, unlike some of the people I work with. I would actually love to take classes that I am interested in or that would help me do my job. I would love for the government to send me to a history class, but it is really hard for me to justify that. I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I would understand if I were sent to a fiscal law course, at least that would help me with my job.

But no, I am in class learning about what color I am, what color I am not, and how to manage all of the different colors. This is another management course like all of the previous one’s I have taken. Sure, it get’s me out of the office. Sure, it is actually a fun course. But I am going to be playing catch up for a week when I get back. And this isn’t actually a quiet time at work for me.

Maybe management can put more thought into the courses that they are going to volunteer me for.

Brain Drain

Forty-five years (and three days) ago the United States of America launched a very small capsule on a three-day flight to land on the moon. These three men lived in a small cramped capsule, landed on non-terrestrial object, and then returned home safely. We, the people of the United States had the drive and the knowledge to accomplish this, and today we have to hitchhike a ride into space.

We accomplished this in the 1960’s, and today our students do not even rank in the top ten in math and science. Our students rank just a hair above Jordanian students. Japan and China both rank above us in education, and both send their students to calls more than our average 178 days per year. And then there is the H1B visa.

I am sure that most of my friends do not know what that is. The H1B visa is nicknames the “Genius Visa.” Our education system is in such a sad state that we have to import PhDs to fulfill position in Universities. We are not the only country in this sad state. Germany, also trying to open up VISAs for educators, but some politicians in Germany blocked the opening of VISAs thinking that immigrants would be taking jobs away from Germans. Except that is not what happened, there were no Germans that could fill those positions. And that would be the same situation here if the H1B VISAs were discontinued.

And how sad is that?  We couldn’t even fill the positions at our own universities if we didn’t import PhDs. And once the home nations of the geniuses catch up to us in terms of lifestyles, there would be no reasons for the professors to stay here. And if you want to look at what our future is going to be, just look at who are taking the physics courses. More than half of PhD students are now foreign born.

If we ever want to regain our position as the leader in the sciences, maybe we should spend more time on educating out children.

Maybe we could start with teaching our kids that “R U OK” is not a complete sentence.

A Losing Battle

I am in the middle of my second summer with three furry roommates. I am also in the middle of a losing battle. The problem with having three cats is not that they fight all the time. The problem is that they shed, and shed, and shed some more. There is cat hair everywhere in this house. Ok, part of the problem is that I haven’t vacuumed in a week, but the bigger problem is that even after I vacuum, the cats walk around the house and make sure all of the locations I just finished cleaning are covered in hair again. I may be able to keep the house clean for three hours, four tops, before the hairy ones have made sure every room has at least 3.42 pounds of cat hair.

And why the heck aren’t these cats bald? The lose hair by the pound. I even comb these little bastards. But it seems that for all of the cat hair I comb, there is seven times as much that they have to shed.

I am also in a losing a battle with Loki. I comb him and comb him, which he hates, and still his fur becomes matted. Right now he has large clumps of matted fur all over, and I just cannot seem to help him get rid of it. It doesn’t help that when I try to comb him he bites me. His bite doesn’t break my skin, he bites just hard enough to tell me that he is very unhappy, which makes me very unhappy.

So, I am fighting two separate losing battles with cat hair. The vacuum is not much of an ally. And the claws and teeth that are my cat’s allies hurt me way more then the vacuum scares them.

And I am pretty sure that when I am done cleaning, the cats look at me and laugh. I have also come to the conclusion that the cats must be able to shed on command.

Three Thing Friday

1. Trust – When you have someone with 30 years of experience in the government, and over eight years of experience with one contract in particular, you would think that one would trust his or her opinion. Too bad that this does not hold true in the government.  Top to bottom, no one seems to want to listen to the experts. And believe me, I am not saying that it is I that people are not listening to (although that is true as well), it’s other people that have been ignored.

And thanks to this, our contract is in serious trouble. So much so that the contractors may not be able to continue their work on 1 October. You have employees for a reason. You have experts for a reason. Use them properly, and everything may be able to work somewhat well. Well, it might workout well enough for government work.

2. Climate Change – I am a firm believe that climate change is a fact. I believe the scientists and their facts. Yes, it has become known as “Global Warming,” and the end game may be a warmer globe, but the main point is that the Earth’s climate is changing, and we are directly responsible.

However, the weather at the end of this July has just been bloody pleasant. If the climate would change to this, and stay like this, I would not mind at all. Nine of the last 10 years set record highs, but this year just hasn’t that bad at all.

So yes, I still believe we need to get a handle on the pollution that is causing climate change. Yes, I think we as a nation, and as a species, need to become more green.

Now, I am going to go open some windows and enjoy the changing climate before it drowns me.

And now that I wrote this, next week will probably top 110 degrees.

3. Story Time – A few years ago, I would read about a book a week on average. I wouldn’t read anything spectacular, and not that many books that would teach me anything. Sure, I would read some biographies, and mostly presidential biographies. Mostly I read science fiction and science fantasy. Recently, however, I haven’t been able to get more than a book a month, if I was lucky. I should just join some book of the month club. I need to start setting myself some new goals. I need to take out my books and start reading again. The pile of unread books grows. I need to knock it down. I need to concentrate.

I need to read. I didn’t get go to elementary school to not use my ability to read.

Something’s Wrong

Something is very wrong, and I cannot put my finger on exactly what it is. Yes, morale in the office, including my own, no longer exists. I am not happy, so much so that I am looking for new jobs, both in and out of the government, though I would actually prefer to remain within the government. But right now I would take almost anything, as long as I could continue to pay my mortgage. I have even thought of cutting back on my wine and my warhammer models.

I often think about the fact that I used to love my job, well, at least like my job. I never wanted to go into work, but I never actively thought about calling out sick for the mental health day. Even other people have noticed that something is wrong. All you would have to look at is some of the things that have been said to me recently.

“I hope you are OK” – Mom

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” – Bill

“Are you alright?” – countless other people

“You look very tired” – co-worker

I just feel beat up. I am in one hell of a funk, and I have no idea how to get out of it. I haven’t been kayaking or diving at all this year. And I had to drag myself to the winery last week (WTF is that all about?). Actually, there are a few things I look forward too. I look forward to gaming with my friends, because win or lose (usually lose) I have a blast and it really brings my up from my workweek. I also look forward to the long walk back to the car. Not because it’s the end of the day, well not only because it’s the end of the day, but also because it’s a chance to talk to one of my fellow coworkers. He has a similar personality, and I use that time to bring myself down from the stress of the day.

So, yes everyone, I am run down. Yes I am freaking exhausted. But I am alive, and all of this shall pass.

Besides, I just have to make it to October, when I get to swim with some friendly sharks.

Today’s Lesson

Today I found myself sitting in a training session for two hours. I was being trained for what may end up being a new responsibility in my job. Nothing exciting, just how to process a security form for any project using our contract, but mostly for the Army projects I am currently managing.

If this sounds as dull as watching paint dry, you would be more than correct. There is nothing exciting at all about those forms, and the people hosting the class didn’t help. They were quiet, dull, and thoroughly unprepared for the class. It dragged on for two hours, and I learned something about myself.

I cannot and should not be left in a room with a map. Even when being taught something important (like official forms), a giant map is a giant distraction. If you look at the notes I took during the class, at the bottom of the paper is a list of cities and counties; a list of places I suddenly want to visit or that I found curious for some reason.

East London, South Africa, a place that probably is close to seal island and the potential to see flying sharks. Walvis Bay, Namibia, a place that just looked like a good place to visit, and a name that made me laugh. Cough Island in the Atlantic, a sign that I need new glasses since it is spelled Gough Island. Midway Island, I’d go there just for the history with the place.

I was thinking about places to dive, places I just want to see, places I wish I had the money to go to. Even an uninhabited island where I could be left alone would be a nice place to go.

So, I have no idea how I learned anything in that class, I was way too distracted. Maybe I didn’t actually learn anything.

Too Offensive to be Made

I can’t explain why, but one of the funniest movies ever made came up in conversation at work today. Oddly, it is a western, and it is freaking (censored) hilarious. We were, of course, talking about Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks. I believe that nearly every person I talked to has enjoyed this movie, maybe one or two didn’t. Every list of “The Greatest Comedies” I have ever seen usually includes this movie.  Mel Brooks must be proud. At least they haven’t made a musical out of it. Yet.

The sad part of this is that the funniest movie ever made would probably not be made today. The movie was so offensive that nobody would take the chance on a film like this. Can you imagine a movie saying “Up yours, nigger!” With today’s society, no producer would allow a film with lines like Blazing Saddles to be made by today’s movie producers. Ok, sure, Django Unchained was still made, but most movie companies would never take the chance on making a movie like Blazing Saddles. Producers would just not take the risk.

And what does that say about how far we have come in forty years? One of the people I was talking about this movie with was an African American coworker, and even she admitted that she found the movie hilarious. And we both agreed that it was the intent behind the offensiveness (which she said she didn’t find all that offensive). Mel Brooks, a genius of comedy, made the simple towns people seem so… simple. They were the butt of the joke, NOT the black sheriff.

It’s the intent behind the words, not the words themselves that are offensive. And I think I may have stolen that from George Carlin. I do have to give credit where credit is due. And as my coworker said, this movie should have been more offensive when it was made, and less offensive now. We seem to have digressed when it comes to our senses of humor.

We all need to learn to take a joke. Sometimes, humor can be used to make social statements, too bad we seem to have lost the ability to laugh.

Fellow Crazies

I’m going to relate a texting conversation I had with a friend this weekend. I am not going to use her name, not to protect the innocent, but because I am too lazy to ask for her permission.

Her: I’m in church wish you were here.
Me: Sorry to say, but I am glad that I am not.
Her: I’m just messing with you, our pastor today told us to text someone and tell them we were in church. Because I’m a smart ass I text the atheist. Lol
Me: If I believed in hell, I’d say you would be going there

I could actually see her laughing as she said the smart-ass comment. I seem to have surrounded myself with people who have the save warped sense of humor I have, and this is not a bad thing. There are people I consider my closest friends, and it’s nice to know that there are people in the world as crazy as myself. People who understand my sarcasm, individuals who actually get the Monty Python quotes I sometimes use. The obscure references I sometimes make.

I know that these are the people I want to hang around with. I know that they won’t judge me, just as I would never judge them.

Us crazies have got to stick together.

And what pastor would tell people to text in the middle of a service?

Earlier and Earlier

As we all know, the Christmas shopping season starts earlier and earlier each year, and this year is not any different. My mother sent me a text that had some pictures of this year’s Christmas ornaments. The Star Trek, Star Wars, and Godzilla Christmas ornaments are already out. And this year there is a new ornament, there is an ornament representing a barreled Bruce from the movie Jaws. These Christmas ornaments are a Christmas tradition in my family; I have been getting these ornaments for many a year now. So, thanks to my mother, I already have seen some of my future X-mas gifts, and I am all excited. Really excited. I cannot accurately portray how excited I am.

But the fact that these ornaments are already on the shelves just show how far the companies have taken the Christmas season. It’s still the hot month of July; we have over four months till the Thanksgiving Day parade, the original start of the Christmas season. We still have Halloween, Labor Day, and the great holiday of Columbus Day to get through.

But, before I criticize corporate America too much, if there is a supply for this, there must be a demand. There must be people who want Christmas year-round.

Well, merry Christmas all, it’s nice to know that I will be sick of the Holidays before Columbus Day hits.

Yes, corporate America is all about profits, but we as citizens feed those profits.

And I am getting a Great White Shark Christmas ornament!

Duke vs Duke U

So, apparently the Duke’s family has decided to sue Duke University over the rights to produce of whiskey. I understand that Duke University wants to protect its name and image, and I understand that the Duke’s family is trying to use John Wayne’s name and image to make some extra cash. Both the university and the family make good points, and this case actually taught me something. I didn’t know Duke University became Duke University in 1924. Which also means that John Wayne’s family’s argument that they may have the rights to “The Duke” that supersedes the universities claims. Proving it another matter.

I also firmly believe that if the whisky is named after John Wayne, and carries his image, that it will not actually have any affect on the university at all. I wonder how Duke University will actually prove that it would. I know I am smart enough to know that The Duke and Duke U. have nothing in common, and I know I can keep them separate. If I saw a tee shirt with John Wayne’s image and “The Duke” in lettering I wouldn’t think, “How low will Duke U. stoop?”

One would also think that with the fame that The Duke has (or had) the university wouldn’t mind some free advertising.

Maybe I am giving the American population too much credit. Maybe it’s been so long since The Duke has been in films that people will mistake The Duke and Duke U. Maybe they will think that the university is producing whiskey, which some students probably are right under the schools nose.

Of course, it all comes down to money. A School trying to protect it’s image (which is in no danger) and a family trying to make money off the Duke’s name, since they can’t make a living on their own name.