Thursday, May 28, 2015

Secondhand News

I love reading news online. 

In college, I subscribed to the local newspaper.  I did the same throughout grad school.  When I travel, I love getting the local news from whatever local rag there is.  There is considerable joy in reading about the decor from this month's meeting of the local Women's Bridge Club or the weekly Woodmen of the World lodge minutes.  I even once saw a picture of an upside down car with the caption "Wreckless driving".

Nothing gives you the flavor of a home town than the local paper.

But there is seldom any real news worth reading.

So I go online for my media.  I try to get as balanced a diet of liberal and conservative articles, and I don't mind tracking down the original sources, to see where the information comes from. I read background information. I try to be aware of my own biases, and question the authority of anything I read.

I will read stories from Mother Jones, and always know that the bias is extremely liberal.  I will read stories from Fox News, and know that the slant is decidedly conservative.  I love delving into the background, and challenging the assumptions, and seeing if the conclusions hold water.

What is interesting to me is that I am relying more and more on my friends to point me in the direction of news.  From FB links to e-mailed stories, my friends have essentially acted as my news filter.

My ultra-conservative friends will send me ridiculous stuff. So will my uber-liberal friends.  Every conspiracy story about how the government is conspiring to take my gnus (or maybe I have misunderstood - it might be yaks they are after) is balanced by a story of how 75% of all children in a remote Mexican village have died from being vaccinated. Or how GMOs are causing cancer and autism.

Here is the fun part.  I love getting my news that way.  I love seeing the causes that my friends care about.  If I relied on the New York Times or the New Orleans Advocate (I am still boycotting the SomeTimes-Pic), I would not know anything about cis-gender. I would not be reading articles about yoga.  (Seriously.  I mean, I would NEVER read those articles). I would miss out on archaeological discoveries, I would have no idea what nun prayer has in common with psychedelic drugs, and I would not have access to the wide variety of music that my friends suggest.

But because my friends are broad minded and deep thinkers, I get the chance to share in what they are thinking. I get to engage in debates with people who are passionate, and watch what happens when their assumptions are challenged. By clicking on the like/comment/share box, I enter into a world of discussion with people who know more and care deeply about things.  And if I disagree, that is OK.  I can either concede, disengage, or dive in, headlong.  My friends - the ones who know and love me - love that.

And yes.  I also get to hear how excited they are that the Braves have a good chance at the pennant this season.  Well, at least for a while, I get to hear that.

I understand the reluctance to use social media.  I do.  I was guilty of sending Farmville invites for a while.  I have lost a little too much time for my comfort staring at a Words With Friends screen, looking for the elusive word.  And I am more than just a little addicted to that 'electronic cuddle' of checking to see that some funny response I posted got a thumbs up.

But I also am very grateful that my secondhand news broadens my world.  That it pushes me to learn things that my friends care about.  That it makes me more empathetic to causes I did not know existed.

To all of you who serve as my media filter:  Thank you.  You guys rock.



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Family Photo

Growing up, there was one family photo.

With apologies to Parker, who came along MUCH later, it was the defining picture of our family - and kind of how I see the family unit in my head.

We took lots of pictures over the years, but there was only the one that represented the family unit.

The picture has a familiar layout.  Dad, standing tall behind the family (with a pretty luxurious moustache, as I recall).  Mom, just in front of him, to his left, with 1975 hairdo, perfectly coiffed.  Five-year-old Crorey, with uncharacteristically unmussed hair.  Almost-one-year-old Caroline, sitting on the stool, completing the picture with frilly dress and black patent leather shoes.

And a stain on the bottom of the left shoe.

Mom had won the photo.  Whether it was a drawing or a raffle, I don't know.  What I do know is that she had successfully resisted all of the up-sell that the photographer tried, all of the pressure he brought to bear, all of the reasons that she needed a portfolio of 30 wallet-sized photos and 27 8x10 color glossy photos (but with neither circles nor arrows).

She walked out of there with one large portrait.

The photographer got the last laugh, though.  There are thousands of ways that good darkroom work can take the imperfections out of pictures.  And instead of spending five seconds dodging that spot on the bottom of the shoe, he left the stain there.

There is something in the imperfection, though, that spoke to me.

We had gone through the process of preparing for the photo.  Hair was washed and combed.  Clothes were pressed and put on at the last minute.  Shoes were shined.  Inventory was taken.  Groundrules were laid down, and threats were made. All of the details were accounted for, and we were perfect for the photo.

Except for that one thing.  Nobody checked the BOTTOM of the baby's shoe.  Because what difference would that make?  Who looks at the bottom of the shoe?

Well, we all did.  For the next ten years, that photograph hung in a place of prominence in the home, as a memento of the family that we were. And in the very center of the picture was the flaw - the thing that I loved best about the picture.

Because that is what we all are.  Imperfect.  Five minutes after that picture was made, the cherub-faced five year old was zooming around the lobby of the studio, probably breaking something, or at the very least being threatened with a spanking when he got home. The dad, embarassed by the ruckus his son was making, was counting to ten to avoid losing his cool at the fortieth thing his son had broken that week.  The toddler was crying, and everybody was being herded into the car by a 28-year old mom who was just tired. 

The family as I remember it was full of love, but flawed in the ways that all families are flawed. 

In the picture, the family is perfection.

With one small reminder that all of God's creatures, even the unmussed, and the perfectly coiffed and the well wax-moustachioed among us - all of us are imperfect. 

And loved.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I have a score to settle

All my life, I have been an early-to-bed kind of guy.  It was never a struggle for my parents to get me to go to bed at bedtime when I was a kid. I very seldom asked for an extension, and the negotiations of 'just a little while longer' was really not part of the parent-child interactions.

But there was always one thing that I did bargain for.

I begged to stay up for the theme song.

I didn't stay up to watch M*A*S*H.  I was asleep before the end of the first scene of Dallas.  I was bored with Masterpiece Theater. (OK.... Some things I didn't outgrow.)  But I loved listening to the theme songs, and would negotiate my bedtime to include the first couple of minutes of the next show so that I could hear the music.  The opening guitar chords to Suicide is Painless got me every time. And still does. 

I was watching a movie this past week where the main character loved watching movies for the scoring of the themes.  What was special to him was that magical interaction where the music moves you past the suspension of disbelief, and into something special - empathy.

And I realized that I have been doing that all my life.  I will often decide to become a fan of a series because the theme music is good. And because I have music running through my head all the time (I am very succeptible to earworms... and I also hear sound clips accompanying the arrival of certain people) it just feels right when there is a good score.

There is a new trend in TV, though, that I understand, but of which I am not a fan.  The first scene is played.  Then we go to the theme, just before commercial.

I get it.  By focusing on the action, channel flippers are stuck in place until after the first scene.  It forces you to give a show a chance before moving it on. 

But I would rather have that tune in my head.
Can you hear it?

Gimme that tune.  If it's catchy, you will have me forever.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Boxer

I am just a poor boy; though my story's seldom told....

This past week I have been working on an old favorite tune on my banjo.  And it makes me smile in memory every time.

The year was 1990.  I was in my junior year at Wofford College, and I was auditioning for the annual voice scholarship.  The Boxer, by Paul Simon, has always been one of my favorite of his tunes, and I decided I would give it a shot. 

I did some preparation, but mostly I just got myself mentally ready to go in and audition.  Auditions are an unnerving thing, even if you are going in among people you like and respect.  Maybe even more so for them.... 

Mr. Gary (the group's incredible pianist, who later became the music director) and the director Vic Bilanchone had both known me for three years, and knew what I was able to do, vocally.  I was unlikely to surprise them.  I had been singing second tenor in all of the choruses I joined, because, well, everybody needs more tenors. Because baritones are a dime a dozen.

I wanted more.  I knew the richness of my range was a little lower than I usually sang.  But solo auditions were traditionally kept in-section.  Awarding a second tenor a bass solo was simply not going to happen.

I wanted more chances.  I wanted more respect.  I wanted the money.  I wanted the attaboy.

So I auditioned.

All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.  Mmmmmmm

At the end of the number, Vic looked at me thoughfully.  "I didn't know that one," he told me.  For the first time, I saw him looking at me a little differently.  It had gone well.

And then Mr. Gary ruined it for me.  "You probably should have let me know that you were skipping the second verse."

Um.  Yeah.  I had frozen at one point, and just skipped one of the most beautiful lyrics in the song...

Asking only worksman's wages, I come looking for a job, but I get no offers.  Just a come-on from the whores on 7th Avenue.  I do declare, there were times that I was so lonesome I took some comfort there.

I fumbled some explanation about appropriateness of lyrics in an audition, apologizing for not letting the pianist in on the 'plan' I had for not singing the right part of the song.

I did not get the scholarship.  That was not a huge surprise.  And I don't remember who did, so it was not an external competition that makes me remember the scene.  It was the failure.  The fact that something I did - or rather, that I didn't do - that kept me from achieving the goal.

But my music was never just one song.  Not just one audition.  I continued to sing.  I continued to push.  During the dark years of the dissertation, I dropped music from my life, and it was the first thing to be brought back when I emerged from that bleak time.

Because there is something of that energy that I get with every attempt.  Leading the folks at my Tuesday gathering of the Lambeth House in worship.  Singing full voice from the back of the congregation at church.  Singing at work.  Singing in the parking lot on the way out the door (Sixteen Tons is an end-of-the-day favorite.) Singing in the shower.

And with this song, I am brought back - both to that time and to all of the struggles since then.  And while I am holding the notes a little longer during those painful pauses between chord changes, I continue to learn and improve on my banjo.

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him, 'til he cried out, in his anger and his shame, I AM LEAVING, I am leaving.... but the fighter still remains.

Singing lets me do that.  Lets me get up off the mat.  Wipe off the blood.  And look away until my embarassment from a missed note fades, and I sing again.  And again.

And in singing this song particularly, there is something in me that makes me look around at my friends... and look admiringly on those who have taken a hit and, improbably, stood back up.  The cancer survivors.  Those who weathered tough family situations.  Those who struggled through brutal patches in their professional life. Heath struggles.  Emotional struggles.  Live struggles. 

You guys get knocked down.  And then get back up.  Scarred.  Cut.  But upright, once again.

Those scars - those 'reminders of every glove that laid you down or cut you till you cried out'... those scars are beautiful, and I glory in seeing them.

Because of them, I recognize a fellow boxer.  A fellow fighter.

So when I sing, it is you who I am singing about.  Every painfully slow move from D7 to Fmaj chord, I sing a triumphant ballad to David.  To Kim.  To Brian. To Julie.  To Yvon.  To John.  To Caroline, Parker, Patty, Nate and Jacob.  To Harry, Chelsea, Melanie and Rachel. 

When I watch you, I marvel at the beauty of your resilience and your fight. 

You are my heroes.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


We were in Brasil during Carter's presidency, and the Brasilian government of the day was not kindly disposed to American citizens.  We jumped through hoops pretty regularly to stay in the country.  There were border crossings, paperwork nightmares, and interminable standing in lines that took place the whole time we were there.  It was so bad that although Dad grew a beard while we were down there, he shaved it off when it was time to come back.  He was concerned that if his passport didn't exactly match his appearance, they would deny him permission to leave.  Bureaucratic hurdles plague visitors at the best of times.  But Brasil decided to make it especially difficult in 1979 on visiting Yanks.

So one time when we were in Belem, applying for a permit of some kind, we were pulled out of line and taken into a back room. Dad moved quickly into Papa Bear mode, but it was of no use.  The officials were going to fingerprint us, to make sure that we were not on an international criminal list.  (Come to think about it, that beard was a pretty fierce look for Dad...) and there was nothing that Papa Bear could do.

Mom helped make light of the situation, moving with us to comply.  They took Caroline's prints, rolling each of her 5-year-old fingers in the ink, then on the paper.  Then mine. 

Then came Mom's turn. They rolled her fingers, and then stared at the page.

Muttering commenced.

They looked at the fair-complectioned, slight woman, and edged menacingly closer to her.

"Do it again."

They tried again.  And then again.  At this point, they are getting more and more hostile, and Dad finally stepped in again.  "What is going on here?"

"Your 'wife' has burned off her fingerprints to avoid detection!"

Mom and Dad both looked down at the paper, and the smudges for each of the fingerprints was completely free of any ridges.  No identifying marks - no whorls, loops or lines of any kind.


Mom looked over at Dad, and said, "How often do YOU use lye soap to do washing?"

Dad turned back to the bureaucrat, and explained what had happened.  Explained that Mom was not an international fugitive.  Explained and argued, and finally we got out of there.

I thought of this episode from the distant past this week because I am finding some of my surroundings caustic.  There are things around me that eat away at the very thing that distinguishes me from every other soulless bureaucrat in the world.  The high points get worn down, and the whorls that make me interesting get muted.

But then, at the very point at which I feel that my individuality is gone, I look around and the people I love go to bat for me.  They argue that they know me - that I am not a fugitive.  That I am loved, and that the lack of fingerprints do not mean that I am faceless.

And I look back and smile to think that somewhere in Brasilian bureaucracyland, enshrined in some little folder, is a study of black and white of my fingerprints.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

All Abuzz

Thursday morning, May 14.

The bees are calling me.

Since 2001, I have wanted to keep bees.  One of my informants in Yucatan let me help 'castrar' his hive, and I have been hooked ever since.

A couple of years ago, a swarm took up residence in the column on the front of my house, and I loved it.  After a whole day of workstress, I would come home, step onto the front porch to check the mail, and feel the soothing hum of bees in my column.  Stress would just leak away. I would greet them, say hello, and watch the comings and goings for just a few minutes.

I know that my reaction is atypical.  But I always have nervous energy running through me..... except when I am around bees. And then my heart rate drops, my breathing slows, and my muscles unclench.

Eventually, my wife reminded me of how atypical (abnormal, I believe she said) my reaction is.  After a couple of bees had chased her off the porch, she said that an eviction notice was in order. So I built a bee-vac (a shop vac connected to a bucket with an extra hose) and bought a smoker.  And I climbed the ladder and sucked the bees out of the column capital and into the bucket.

It was a catch-and-release approach - after capturing the queen and removing all of her servants, I relocated them to the batture. (And then I did it again, twice, as the servants continued to return to HQ from the field).

One of my projects has a beehive under the trailer used as a field office.  I am headed today see if I can remove them with the same ease as the first.

Friday, May 15.
Apparently, the first thing you disconnect when you are going to move a work trailer?
The electricity.  Who knew? (I suppose I need to make a donation to the priest).  And so, when I went to connect my shop-vac-turned-bee-vac into the outlet, I end up with no juice.  No vaccuum means no bees in the bucket.   So all I could do was go and hang out with them a little bit before going home.
So because I couldn't remove the hive as planned, this morning the trailer was hooked up and driven off, leaving a trail of very confused bees in its wake. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

404 - Page Not Found

I failed to duck.

A couple of months ago, one of the bosses walked through on a Friday afternoon, looking for someone to assign a task to.  This was an urgent task, but it was not seen as important.  She was in a bind, and I was there.

The assignment was to represent our office in a committee looking at streamlining our external website.  OK.  In a culture where we hold as one of our major buzzwords 'transparency', well, that seems important.  So urgent.  Important.

Count me in.

The first meeting came to order, and the group lead explained the task to us.  We were to evaluate our offices' websites, to see if there were places we could gain efficiency - make it less likely that people have to click through page after page to get what they want.

At least, that was what I understood.  It turned out, though, that efficiency was not really the task at all. (I know.  Burrocrazy, right?).  What we were trying to do was to reduce the number of click-throughs - to the greatest extent possible - for its own end.

Wait. What?

The task is to reduce clicks. 

The contract we have with the web host is based on the number of clicks.  If you open a new page from within our system, we get charged. Another page: another charge.  So the mandate came down: Reduce Clicks.

The brainstorming for how to accomplish that followed a horrifying, but predictable pattern.  We looked at ways to isolate the internet user, and either force him off the site (shunting into another website entirely) or to bring the user to a phone number that they would call to get the information without further using the system.

We diagnosed a sniffle. And identified a solution: a noseplug. Voila! No more sniffles!

It was at this point that I nicknamed the committee "Club 404".  Because if we get rid of visitors to our website (by directing them to a page where there is a "404-Page not found error"), then we have reduced the clicks. (In case you are wondering, the leader of the group did not appreciate having her committee renamed.)

I thought the disconnect was a result of having labor and website paid for out of different accounts, so that the one hand didn't care about the expenses of the other.  That happens all the time.  It is how we explain getting new furniture in our office when we don't have enough money to pay our people.  And replacing $100k worth of carpet, but not the $250 for fixing the water fountain.

But the more I think about it, the real issue seems to be that the labor cost is fixed.  We aren't going to lay off people in order to reduce expenses.  So the money paid to put those 15 butts in the seats in that conference room is a fixed cost. We pay for that, whether or not they are in the conference room, at their desk, or in the hall.  Or answering the phone to talk to someone who couldn't find the information they were needing online.

The clicks, though, are a variable cost.  If we redirect internet traffic and send people to the phone lines, then we reduce our overall cost for that contract.  And in the process, we create 'savings' to the government.  Never mind that it is penny-wise, pound-foolish. We now pay a $75-an-hour manager to answer the phones to avoid a $0.00001 mouseclick.

It frightens me somewhat that I am able to see logic in such decisions. 


Sunday, May 10, 2015


I'd like to propose that we look at pearls a little differently.

This week,  I had an extraordinary thing happen.  I was out for lunch with a close friend. 
Don Charles and I have been friends for a long time, and conversation flows easily between us.
We were at Casamentos, and we do what is expected when you are there - we ordered oysters.  Half a dozen on the half shell, half a dozen chargrilled in buttery, garlicky, parmesan-cheese coated goodness.  We followed the appetiser oysters with entree oysters - an oyster loaf, with light, airy, chewy, crunchy french bread encrusted with golden brown flash fried oysters. We joked about oyster ice cream or oyster bread pudding for dessert, but I did sneak a peek at the menu to see if somehow it might have really been there.

When the raw oysters arrived, I grabbed one of the plumpest oysters I have ever seen while Don mixed up a horseradish sauce for us to use.

Unable to wait for him to finish, I slurped it, and immediately the salty flavor just infused everything.  I savored that oyster, while running my teeth along the surface, hoping to find a pearl.  My teeth clicked against something hard and glassy.  I spit out a pearl.

And then   another.

And then another.

And yet another.  Two.

For the next few minutes, I carefully - and VERY gingerly - chewed through the rest of the oyster, removing pearl after pearl from the flesh. Although none of them were terribly large, every single one was perfectly round, and briliantly white. Some were tiny - the size of the head of a pin.  Others were larger, roughly half the size of a tic-tac.

When I was done, thirteen pearls lined up on my plate.  (The final count ended up being twelve; I suspect one escapee pearl remained behind as an offering to the restaurant.)  All from the one oyster.

Pearls, as everyone knows, are caused by irritation.  The proverbial grain of sand gets in the oyster, and the irritation forces the oyster (or other bivalve) to secrete a nacreous substance that coats the sand grain.  It continues, year after year, coat of nacre after coat, gradually making small pearls into big ones.  If you slice a natural pearl, you willl see microscopic, concentric rings around an irregular center - the piece of sand.

It all starts with that irritation. That is how I have always heard pearl formation described.

But you know what?  After that lunch with Don, I see it differently.

I mean, c'mon.  If you look at the shell, the inside is mother of pearl.  It is the same substance as the pearl, without the benefit of portability.  The nacre protects what is a pretty fragile organism against the outside world by coating it with a layer of hard, slick, white substance - in essence making a pearlescent bullet-proof jacket.

Sure.  The irritation is there. In a perfect world, the oyster would secrete nothing.  But the world doesn't work that way.  The shell is rough.  The sand that gets in is rough. The work that the oyster does, however, serves to protect itself in the most lovely way possible.

My friends are like that for me.  Yeah, the work, the potholes and traffic, and the crime in the city often rub me the wrong way.  I grouse about the heat and the humidity.  I am irritated by things that I should let slide. 

But then I go out to lunch with an old friend, and the easy conversation acts as a balm.  It coats, soothes and relieves.  A half hour later, and I have a new layer of shine.  The irritations of the world slide off me much more easily.

My time with Don that day reminded me that it is not the irritation that makes the pearl.  It is how we deal with the irritation.

My friends protect me.  And make me beautiful. 

For what it is worth, the oysters were fantastic.  Some of the best I've ever had. But what remains behind, long after the garlic and parmesan fades, will be the delightful memory of sharing that moment with that friend.

A first century rabbi told a story of a man who sold everything he had to buy that one pearl of great price. Sitting across from Don, I think I understand that story just a little bit better.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

At least it wasn't a redneck

The past weeks, we have been watching the trial. Will they sentence him to death?

The Tsarnaev brothers from Chechnya were responsible for the horrific act of violence two years ago at the Boston Marathon. For reasons that still baffle me, the brothers decided to bomb and kill, and during the chase, kill again.

When I first heard about the bombing, I watched with everyone else in absolute horror. When they identified the people responsible, though, my first thought was, "Oh. Thank goodness it wasn't a redneck." At least it wasn't one of us. One of my kind. It was an act committed by a group to which I do not belong. With beliefs that I do not share.

I am not much of a redneck. People who grew up with me would not have characterized me that way - I didn't chew tobacco, I didn't wear the right clothes, or go to the right concerts. My hunting and fishing bona-fides were always suspect. My accent was not typical SC accent. I was probably far closer to the pencil-necked geek than a true redneck.

But since moving away from South Carolina, I have enjoyed calling myself a redneck, because it speaks to a certain set of values that I share. A love of God. A love of country. A sense of belonging within a family structure. Identifying myself this way provides me with a sense of 'us'ness that I otherwise lack. I love identifying myself as a redneck.

But as soon as the thought "Thank goodness" crossed my mind, I felt a sense of shame. Because although I was relieved that it was not one of 'us', someone else suddenly felt bad because it was. One of us.

I am now convinced that this is at the heart of an important issue. We live in fear that 'our group' will be embarrassed by the actions of a few nuts in our midst. The unstable ones who hear voices that tell them to kill, or whose hate has blinded them to the fact that those we call 'them' are also one of 'us".


When do I start? When do I begin to feel shame that it was one of us that did this, rather than relief that 'one of us' did not?

There was a prayer uttered by a religious leader in the first century, who said, "God, I thank you that I am not like THAT one". The story villified him, saying that he was not doing the whole prayer thing right. That God does not look for comparative ethics. We have to take that to heart.

We have to start to really consider ourselves humans first, and not redneck, tea partier, liberal, or conservative. Or Christian, Muslim, Bostonian, New Orleanian, South Carolinian, American, Canadian, European, African, Chinese.

I will try and let it be today. Today I am one of you. Whoever you are. Whatever group you belong to, you are part of my group. My people. And we are sad about this violence. Together.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Krewe of Clean Up ...

During the emergency, there is opportunity for true heroism.  The person who runs towards the sound of the guns, rather than running away.  The person who jumps into the canal to save the drowning child.  The person who braves the impending explosion to pull free the man pinned in the burning car.

We celebrate these people.  We idolize them.  We throw galas and ticker tape parades.  We honor them with medals and certificates of appreciation and put their names on plaques.  This is right.  That is how it is supposed to be.
But what happens when the countdown is over, the aerospace engineers have all dropped their coffee cups on the floor, when everybody is clapping the heroes on the shoulder, buying them drinks, and celebrating the win?  Who is left behind, cleaning up the coffee cups?

God bless the janitors.

I don't necessarily mean janitors in a strictly literal sense.  (Although I am a fan of them, too).  What I am talking about is the cadre of people who do the work once the cameras have stopped filming, and there is nothing sexy about the work.  The people who figure out where to dispose of the demolition debris from the buildings destroyed from a disaster.  Those who file the financial paperwork to make sure that emergency contractors get paid. Those who fix the streets. 

In my agency, the people who worked tirelessly after Katrina to meet the challenge were awesome.  They logged countless hours (literally.... nobody has succeeded in counting them). Many came home after logging 16 hour days to work at rebuilding their own homes, destroyed in the storm.  They took on an impossible deadline, and met it through enormous effort.

And we celebrated their effort.  They received accolades and temporary promotions and many have moved on to greener pastures.

But then there is the janitoral work.  Those who fill out the paperwork and finish the environmental compliance left over from the get-r-done mentality.  Yes, it was critical to get-r-done.  But my heart is with the janitoral staff that stayed to do the clean-up.

One of my favorite short animation sketches came during the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.  They had all of the progression of characters, loud music being played, characters dancing; pure joy. 

And at the tail end of the parade is the guy with the janitor's broom, sweeping up elephant dung and hay from the street.

This is who we need to celebrate.

Thursday, May 7th is Roast Leg of Lamb Day. And the Kazakh "Defender of the Fatherland" Day.  Otherwise, it doesn't get much respect. 

Let's make it Janitor's Day.  For the guys who clean up the stadium.  For the ones who stay after the space shuttle has launched.... just to make sure that nobody tomorrow will slip on a coffee cup.

For those who help do the accounting on the day after GiveNOLA (it's not too late to make a donation, by the way!)

Let's celebrate them.  Buy them a beer.  Clap them on the shoulder, and tell them, "Well Done!"


Friday, May 1, 2015

Which Envelope?

Old joke:

New, wet-behind-the-ears Corps project manager (you can substitute whatever profession you want) sits at his desk for the first time.  There is a folder on the desk, with a message from the previous PM:

"Dear new PM: You will run into some crisis moments on this project.  When you hit one, open the envelopes in succession."

First crisis comes 9 months after the PM arrives, and the new PM opens the first envelope.  Inside is a small slip of paper. "Blame me."

The PM stands the next day in front of the Colonel.  Explains that he is working to fix what the previous PM had mucked up. 

The Colonel buys the story, and new PM gets the reprieve from the Colonel.  Six months later, the PM is hit with a second crisis.  Scheduled blown, budgets busted.  He opens the second envelope. "Blame the team."

The PM is now in front of the General.  He discusses at length the efforts that the team has done, but with each description is a subtle indication that the team is not doing its job.  The result is perfection.  The General is appeased, and gives more time and funds to complete the task.

A mere three months later, the next crisis hits - and it is a doozy.  The PM reaches for the final envelope.

"Prepare three envelopes."