Posts Tagged ‘issues’

Selfish Mistrust

7 May 2010

Dear J-

I blame the media overexposure: right now I have Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold running through my head (also interesting how certain songs are censored depending on the station they’re playing on — I’ve heard the uncut Creep on only one radio station, and that was in the Bay Area, but censorship will wait until another day). This month’s issue of Lucky magazine features her on the cover; inside they show a picture of her from 2004 as a relative unknown — she’d dress up and crash parties, hoping to get noticed, and they were struck by her fashion sense then.

I don’t mean to be curmudgeonly, but that seems to be the modern twist on the fairy tale, like a Cinderella story where the payoff is fame. It seems strange that we’d pursue fame for being famous, but in this world of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, what lesson are we teaching? Should recognition be its own reward? I think I’ve touched on the absurdity of news reporter celebrities before — the face is familiar because they read the news, and the choice of who shouldn’t depend on how recognizable they are — but we run the risk of diluting our messages and overshadowing the content when we elevate the reporter above the story. Likewise fame: we shouldn’t have to use the fame as a platform for a cause, but unfortunately that’s what’s needed to gain attention.

I was walking around yesterday after being selected for a random drug screening (having heard horror stories about not being able to produce, I promptly went to the cafeteria and drank six glasses of water). I was always amazed, growing up, watching my dad recognize the people he worked with as we walked around campus — name and department — and I’m starting to get there now, walking around and spotting people I know. It’s not fame (not in the same sense as being notable), it’s hard work that starts at the ground level and establishing yourself as trustworthy and dependable when most of the names come up in my mind. I’m starting to feel the thaw, where attitudes shift from selfish mistrust (“only I can do it right”) to mutual respect. We’ll get there.

Mike

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Work Strong

28 December 2009

Dear J-

Part of what I write here are the hundreds of little diatribes that go through my head every day, like being annoyed with work or an un-sleepy figgy or the way that traffic seems to conspire singly against me; upon reading a few of those theVet pronounced me generally preachy. Some of the easiest extemporaneous topics revolve around pounding the pulpit, at least for me, and I’ve been seeking low-hanging fruit for the longest time lately. There’s been a bumper crop of peeves this December without me needing to seek them out, and the lack of sleep isn’t helping them out much.

It’s not fun, and I’m not much fun to be around; the last thing anyone wants is to hear folks complain, and it jumps from commiseration to fruitless carping without any effort at all. Tell me that it’s okay or it’s not — either way, and that’s been the wrong answer for me lately. Part of getting better is letting go; holding on to anger is like swallowing poison to spite your enemies. I think that I look forward to time off because I can’t spend the best part of my day at home otherwise; it’s easy to complain, as usual, but as hours stretch into days and weeks spent scrambling for things that aren’t helping my family, I keep thinking that I’ve bet on the wrong horse.

After dreaming of better days we’re left in the reality of the moment, remember that Pandora closed the box before Hope could escape and we’ve been carrying that forever since. The darkness passes ever-quicker; now that we’re past the solstice, you realize that the days are getting longer (I spent the drive home marveling at the colors of the sunset, then marveling that I saw the sun in San Diego at all). Pride suffers in public, but there’s no reason not to preen in private.

Mike

Stretching Exercise

21 May 2009

Dear J-

The weeks are starting to extend themselves into a bit of a blur; we keep working what feels like a whole month’s worth of work in eight hours.  When I reflect on the things I did at the start of the day, they seem like remote mysteries from some ancient past.  This is, of course, not to say that I got a lot done — to the contrary, most days I’m lucky to have kept the deficit between tasks and accomplishments to a manageable level.

Treat things as they come in, then; don’t let them grow to absurd proportions.  I said as much yesterday.  It’s one of those things that you set as what seems like an achievable goal but one you inevitably end up missing in favor of putting the right details in.  Okay, by you I mean me; must be accurate with the man watching in the mirror.  Tasks and weeks both, then, blurring in the rear-view; sometimes I pick up pictures of figgy from not long ago and marvel at how different everything seems.

Stretch your arms around the issues; very few things will escape your grasp if you are ambitious enough.  Acquiring more tasks is entertaining, but how long can you keep those plates spinning on sticks?  When your world contracts on itself and you find yourself having to account for your actions, how proud can you be for having spent all those extra hours at work, instead of on your family?  Priorities shift and so do lives.

Mike

Busy Days

2 February 2009

Dear J-

The busy days are not necessarily the most productive days; spend all your time fielding questions — large and small — and there’s no way that you’re getting traction on the things that litter your plate.  I’m back on five days a week, after catching up on weekend e-mails, and starting to believe that seven wouldn’t be enough.  It’s a question of priorities and possibilities, though, and I’m pretty sure I can work my way through them.  Yet how much time do we waste giving the appearance of the right thing, versus actually doing those things?  Face time shouldn’t come at the expense of work, but for the sake of sending people to meetings we’re stuck in meetings to give people reassurances without knowledge.

What do we know about how the rest of the world works?  Why do we believe that all management styles are transferrable?  What works at, say, the Home Depot doesn’t necessarily translate well into a power production industry and yet I read about how many different companies have chosen the same software as us — as well as my current city — and we squawk with outrage that it’s not a nimble, tailored program.  Such is the curse of any one-size-fits-all solution, whether software or philosophy.

Everyone likes to pound their chests a little and declare how different they are, and yet we end up making a lot of the same choices — things are not popular without reasons.  I’m just saying that maybe we’ve sold ourselves a little short on believing that common tools can be adapted to fit every situation.  Yes, a locking pliers may be as close to a universal wrench as man has invented (perhaps less so than, say, a blue wrench), but that doesn’t always make it the best choice for a particular job — it may be convenient, but not best.  Hence you’ve got to wonder about the failure of imagination that leads to recommending the most popular tool as the right one without concrete benefits.

Mike

Sunday Funday

1 February 2009

Dear J-

Interesting — there’s something seriously broken with this new version of the flickr uploadr, which has begun to rearrange photographs in seemingly random sequences rather than by date taken, which should be a simple matter of sniffing out the EXIF data from the file.  At any rate, it’s beyond my capacity to understand or to fix, so I’m stuck telling stories out of order until that particular quirk gets ironed out — that or find some other method.

There was also some major sporting event which I honestly couldn’t bear to watch — it’s like this every year, where I have virtually no stake in the teams that appear except that I can’t stand one or both, with the sole exception of the Seahawks a few years back — and so I end up saying thoughtful lines such as “If only the losing team had managed to score more points!” instead of offering my opinion on the action and glory that’s already gone on roughly a week too long.  I must just be a sore loser — none of my teams left means my interest level falls off precipitously.

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It’s a long road ahead and thus it’s easier to deal with one piece at a time instead of staring at all the steps at once and sending yourself into a panic.  I remember fourth grade — Mrs. Van Matre — we had a lesson in working smarter, not harder, where the first instruction in a long list of instructions was to read the whole list of instructions first before starting any actual work.  The last instruction was, of course, something like “Disregard all previous steps except the first one, put your name at the top of this paper, and hand it in.”  The intervening steps had you writing scads of words in various crayon colors (hence indelibly — thus marking out those kids who were too impatient to read through the instructions before commencing work — make it the Green I of Impatience), and of course I, upon starting work and skimming directions at the same time, was horrified to know that I couldn’t fix the page, and ended up with a zero on that particular paper.  But I think that’s the only time, real-life-wise, it was really brilliant to survey all the steps; one crisis at a time, one single step begins the journey.

Mike