Three Thing Friday

1. Holiday Weekend – I’ve been on the compressed work schedule since I moved down to Maryland, almost four years ago. I made the schedule change because I end up being out of the house for the same amount of time that I was when I lived in New Jersey. The difference is, in Jersey, most of my time was spent commuting, where now my commute is about 12 minutes. The schedule is eight 9-hour days, an 8-hour day, and one day off every other week.

I was originally afraid that having every other weekend off would ruin the enjoyment of holiday weekends. I was wrong. I am still really happy that I have an extra three-day weekend.

2. Shooting Ranges – So, as some of us probably know, a nine year old was brought to a shooting range by her parents, and while shooting an Uzi, she killed the instructor. Now, some would argue that the Uzi was too powerful and the instructor should not have allowed her to shoot the gun. I say, and this is odd coming from me, that we shouldn’t increase the laws on gun ranges; I think we should institute a parental test. If you fail it, you cannot be a parent. Some people are just stupid to be parents. These parents should have not have allowed their daughter to shoot that powerful of a gun.

And sadly, this nine-year-old will probably be scarred for life…. Or maybe I am overestimating the memory of a nine-year-old.

3. Engine Light – On the way home from work yesterday, the “Service Engine Soon” light came on. So, the MINI looks like it will be returning to the shop again soon. It is a good thing that I still like this car. I have no idea what is wrong with it, but it is an 11-year old car (the car is older than that girl in the second thing this Friday), and old cars have issues.

So, will the evil woman who is doing her voodoo on my car, I ask you to please stop. The car has taken enough abuse this year.

Briefing Thursday

Today, being Thursday, we had another one of our weekly meetings. I went into this meeting with a different attitude. I went to the meeting with a more positive attitude. I didn’t immediately complain that it was Pointless Meeting Thursday.

Now, why did I have the sudden change of attitude? Well, none of the staff had to brief today. So, while I could have spent the time getting some of the FY15 work done, the meeting didn’t take the hour it usually does. It actually only took less than half of that.

So, while the briefing probably wasn’t necessary, it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. We got the standard holiday weekend safety briefing, which wasn’t all that bad considering that no one was prepared to give it. We also went over a few other changes in the office, and that was it.

So, for our standard weekly meeting, it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, I would have preferred to get some PWS documents reviewed. Sure, I would have like to talk to some of my customers. Sure, I would have preferred to use my time to actually get stuff done. But overall, the meeting wasn’t a total waste of time, just a partial waste of time.

Overreaction

Today when I arrived early at work, I decided to read some news on CNN.com in order to get my day started. This is something I usually do unless I do not show up my usual fifteen minutes early. Anyway, I saw this article about a beach closing in Massachusetts. Having grown up in Seaside Park, NJ beach are nothing new to me.

One of the surprises about this beach closure is that it was due to a great white shark being spotted yards off the shore. I get it; it’s better to be safe than sorry. Getting the vacationers out of the water and out of harms way was the only prudent action that could be taken, as long as they were closed without causing an even bigger panic. But the local police didn’t stop there. The vacationers were not only pulled out of the water, but they were also pulled off of the beach.

Closing the beach makes no sense to me at all. Last time I checked, sharks don’t hunt on land, except in old SNL skits. It just seemed to be a massive overreaction from people who watch too much shark week on discovery. Again, getting the people out of the water makes sense, but why not allow the people to sit on the beach, read a book, make a sandcastle, or just enjoy themselves.

And if the people are dumb enough to return to the water right after being warned about a fourteen-foot great white shark, they’ll probably still be ok. It’s not like sharks normally hunt humans. But even if someone walked back into the water, and was killed by the shark, then the average IQ of the world would have went up a few points.

But alas, people are always going to overreact. So, leading up to the holiday weekend, Massachusetts closed on of their beaches, all in fear of a shark. And you know that the shark just loved his power.

Multiverse

This morning a co-worker of mine mentioned the multiverse theory, and I have been thinking about it ever since. He was saying that, according to the theory, there is a version of him that actually wants to come into work every day. The same theory says the same thing about me, in theory there is a version of myself that wants to come into work every day. That version of me needs to die a very horrible and painful death.

Of course, the multiverse theory also says there may be a version of me that wears a clown costume to work every day. Now that would actually fit the circus environment that I have to work in. That image, of every one in the office wearing clown costumes, that is a thought that makes me laugh.

So, that’s my thought for the day. There must be a version of me happy with work, there must be a version of me who rides a dinosaur, and there must be a version of me who lives in a clean house with no cats.

Heck, according to theory, there is a version of me who can actually write interesting blogs.

Trust Issues

I had an interesting conversation at work the other day about trust. According to the recent survey we took, trust in leadership is extremely low. And the conversation went to what exactly trust is.

The one argument is that if you do not lie or intentionally mislead, you have done nothing to lose one’s trust. Since we are pretty sure that leadership never lied to us, we should obviously trust our leadership. And while that may be part of it, telling the truth and acting truthfully is only part of the equation. There is much more to trust than just not lying.

If your leadership does not inspire trust, that leadership is not going to be trusted. Seems obvious, but some people do not get that. If I do not think that you are going to do what is the best for the organization, I am not going to trust you. If I do not think that you are going to have my back when the cards are down, why would I trust you? It’s not just truth and lies, there is so much more to trust in leadership than that.

You also need to show trust. Coming back to work to make sure that I am at my desk because I didn’t want to go to the holiday party shows that you do not trust me. So why should I trust you.

While I believe that leadership in our office never lied to us, I do believe that they relay information with their own slant on it. I am also sure that they would not act in the best interest of personnel or in the best interest of out customers. I believe that they would act in their own best interest, and that does not inspire me to trust them.

Three Thing Friday

1. A First – Yesterday my first speeding ticket arrived in the mail. That’s right; in nearly twenty years of driving, I got my first speeding ticket. The good news is that since it was a speeding photo trap, there are no points involved. Now, I believe that I am supposed to have a right to confront my accuser, and since my accuser is a camera that would be very difficult.

However, since it was only $40, and since it may actually cause more problems if I do fight it, I just paid it. With my luck, I’d fight it, lose, and end up with the points and a higher fine. And a $40 speeding ticket every 20 years or so, I can live with that. I’ll see you when I am in my 50’s.

2. The Simpsons – The FXX channel has started their 12-day marathon of the Simpsons. That will be 25 years and one movie worth of the Simpsons crammed into 12 days.

And when you think about it, Maggie should be drinking and driving. Homer should be retired. Grandpa should be dead and buried. Mr. Burns should have bought the presidency and would probably still be alive.

25-years and the show is still going. Over 500 episodes. Years and years of yellow entertainment.

And I am already sick of the marathon.

3. Meaningless Numbers – Yesterday I was briefed again on the results of the climate survey. And it was not like this was a new briefing with numbers that more directly reflect the results of my office; it was the exact same briefing that was given a week ago. I hope people above me realize that giving the exact same briefing multiple times is not increasing communication.

And when you are giving the results of a survey, you should know what those results mean. I am not blaming the director on this one, it seems that nobody knows what the numbers mean. For example, two numbers would be given, CECOM’s results and the Army’s results. And say CECOM’s result for a question was 2.9 and the Army’s was 3.0, we were given a good rating because we were close to the Army’s result. But what does that 2.9 mean? Is it 2.9 out of 4? Out of 5? Out of 100? And if the Army’s 3.0 was a terrible result, does it matter that we are .1 away from terrible?

And to top it off, the questions themselves were flawed. Everyone interpreted the questions differently. The questions were not clear. A question may have asked, “Do you trust your leadership?” What is my leadership? My team leader? The Director? The Commanding General?

So, what we learned from this whole flawed process is that CECOM scored worse than the average Army score in almost every category and that the Army needs to rework its survey.

Cracked

The busiest time of year for my team is year-end. We are rushing to get money onto contract. We are rushing to get all of the next year’s documents approved. We are rushing to get the next contract awarded. Year-end is rush, rush, and rush. I hate year-end and year beginning. But year –end is the month of September, not August.

For some reason, this year is different. There is so much stress and pressure in the office to finish up all the work immediately. We need to get the funds on contract now! We need to finish up the extension process yesterday! All FY15 documents must be collected and in our office fifteen minutes ago! The stress level in the office is actually worse than it has even been in any prior year-end, and again, this is not actually year-end.

On top of all of this you have the highly combative attitude of everyone. Customers are fighting with the contracting office. Contracting is fighting with MITRE. My Management is fighting with the customers. And everyone if fighting my office, and we are fighting with everyone. The hostility in the office is just thick.

I miss the old days when we worked as a team, and we worked with our customers and the contractor and didn’t fight against them. There was just so much more… peace when we were in Ft. Monmouth.

I talked to some of my long time customers, and they know that it’s not me. They know it’s all of the changes in staff. I try to keep my friendly relationship with my customers, but it is very hard to work within the restrictions that are being placed on me. These same restrictions that I am forced to place on them.

Well, today, I cracked. In fact, I think the whole office did. We were all in one weird mood. A contractor called me today, one who also called me yesterday, and even she noticed a difference between the two calls. I was just goofy and I think I scared her off the phone. It seemed as if we all threw up our hand and just gave up. I believe the stress just got to us; we were all just wacky.

So, I think I cracked. I think I lost my mind. Not that I had much of a mind to start with.

40 Years Old

Today I was flipping through the T.V. channels and I came upon one of my favorite comedies. It is one of the greats, or at least it should be considered one of the greats. But what I cannot believe is that it is 40 years old! It is actually older than I am… not older than my mother though, but what is? Just kidding mom.

But this movie is one of Mel Brooks’ finest works. A black and white film made in the age of color. A great film that parodies one of the greatest monster movies ever made. I am, of course, talking about Young Frankenstein. This is one of my favorite movies of all time.

But the fact that it was made in 1974 also made me realize that one of the other greats by Mel Brooks is even older. Gene Wilder, who wrote and stared in Young Frankenstein, ask Mel Brooks to direct the film while on the set of another classic film, Blazing Saddles, also made in 1974. Brooks and Wilder were just pumping out films that year.

So, if you get the chance, and if you can get past the black and while film, sit back and enjoy it. It is a classic. You may even laugh a few times.

Perfectly Fitting

At the entrance of the building I work at there is a small concrete slab. There is nothing all that out of the ordinary with this little slab, it really isn’t anything special. It is just a boring, ordinary, piece of walkway.

But this one piece of walkway perfectly illustrates working for the government. This one piece of concrete is always loose. After spending billions of dollars on BRAC, they just can’t get this one piece of walkway right. Today, walking in, someone put two cones over the lose tiles. Billions of dollars spent. A “state of the art” facility, and the U.S. Army cannot get one tile right.

And that’s how it seems to be with the government, they spend a fortune, and they cannot even get the little things right. Look at NASA, they spent billions on a pen that can write in no gravity, but the Russians decided to use a pencil. NASA sends a satellite to the planet Mars, which crashes because someone confuses Metric with the English system. The US Army spends millions designing a new tank, which is under-armored, barely mobile, and catches fire.

But, bless the Army’s heart, it does keep trying. Someone will once again try to stabilize that small slab. They will take more time, more money, and more effort, and in a few weeks it will be loose again. The cones will back out, and we will have to start all over again.

And like most of my customers, they keep getting the little things wrong, but they do keep trying. I get documents with contract numbers from 4 years ago. I keep being told that someone tried to load a document into our website, even though they were told to email it to me. I deal with people who send me funding documents, and have been for years, and they get the same thing wrong each time.

I guess I should be used to this by now, but the Army just can’t seem to get it right. But it does keep on trying.

Daydreaming

A few days ago I found myself staring at the clouds. This was actually dangerous since I was driving at the time, but let’s skip that. I was looking at a cloud that looked a lot like the horse-head nebula. Seriously, it was a cloud formation that looked a lot like the nebula.

This got me thinking about when I was a kid and saw all sorts of images in the clouds. I am sure you, the reader, did as well. It was a fun game to see what images the clouds would form.

So many of us no longer use our imaginations. We work, we eat, and we watch TV. You really should just take a moment, relax and look at the clouds. Sure, the answers to life are not going to be found in a cloud, but you might see Mickey Mouse. You might see Grumpy Cat. You might even see the horse-head nebula.

So use your imagination. Relax. Remember your childhood. And smile.