Management Decisions

I have been sitting here this morning listening to the two senior people in the security operations center I work in discussing staffing and access.  You see, the security operations center does not currently operate.  We are in the process of standing it up.

In any event, as I listen to them speak about what access entry-level and journeyman people will need versus what rights and privileges “senior” people will need, I am reminded once again of a fatal flaw in organizational thinking regarding management.

In a couple of months, when this operations center is fully operational, I am certain I will find myself reporting to some “senior” person.  However, the use of the term “senior” is meant to describe the level of experience the individual in question has with a certain set of tools, or in a certain environment.  It is akin to describing an auto mechanic as a journeyman vs a “master” mechanic.  The problem being, knowing how to fix a car doesn’t mean you know how to run a dealership.

I am speaking now as someone who will always be a technician and never a manager because I do not have a degree or a PMP certification.  But the simple fact is that both I and every other contractor I know has worked on one or more failed programs run by people who do have degrees and PMP certifications.  So, while I know no one is ever going to actually read and act on what I have to say here, I will say it anyway.

Management is not a college major.  It’s not a name tag.  It’s not a corner office, power ties, or business lunches.  It’s not being called “sir” or “ma’am” by ass kissers in your office.  Management is a role, a process, a means to an end.  And on the whole I think we have entirely too many wholly unqualified individuals sitting in big chairs, with big titles…who don’t know shit.

Management starts with clearly understanding what has to be done, and selecting the right people to get it done.  It begins with the creation of accurate job descriptions.  It involves cooperation between recruiters, hiring managers, and the actual manager who will lead the personnel in question.  It involves actually understanding the work and the skillsets required to accomplish it.

After you have determined the goal and hired the personnel, you need to clearly define the roles, the milestone, the expectations, the penalties and incentives, and the risks.  Then you need to pass this information on to your people.  There is nothing less productive than an employee that does not understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, when it needs to be done, and in what manner.  A clueless employee is just a butt in a seat.  An FTE.  An excuse to bill hours to the customer.  You do your customer, your company, and your employees a disservice when you engage in this type of management.

Management involves a clearly defined and understood chain of command.  One of the things I liked best about my favorite manager of all time is that when the customer showed up in our space and started grilling us, she would intercede.  I can still recall her saying, “If you have a question or a problem, you come talk to me.  Do not talk to my people.”  *That* is management.  That is freeing me to do my job by taking on the responsibility of doing yours.

Lastly, management involves a lot of intangibles.  Sure, you have the pedigree.  You have your bachelor’s or master’s…or God-forbid your PhD.  You have your PMP.  You have your 40 hours of this training and 80 hours of that.  All wonderful.

Do you know how to motivate people?  Do you know how to get the best out of the people who work for you?  Do your employees see themselves as part of a team, and you as the team leader?  Do you take the side of an employee when they are right, even if it puts you at odds with YOUR manager?

Or do you see your job as simply standing by the clock to monitor when people come in and when they leave; cracking the whip from time to time during the day; taking long lunches and; hanging out with big-wigs?

Can you juggle multiple tasks, and people, and events?  Do you freeze in an emergency?  Are you capable of prioritizing, providing guidance, and pushing your team across the finish line?  Or do you simply provide the excuses and point the finger at other people when things go sour?

I will never be a manager, because I lack the credentials.  In spite of the fact that I manage an international gaming group with hundreds of members, and spend my evenings managing a much larger group of people than most of the organizations for whom I work.  In spite of the fact that I can, and do, all of the things I listed above.

The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t really bother me much.  I have enough to deal with at home and in the cloud.  I am happy to do my job, cash my check, and go home.  But on some level, it does stick in my crawl a little.  Always having to answer to people who I wouldn’t let run one of my guilds, much less handle national security related activities.

And the further truth of the matter is, it’s their loss not mine.  I make plenty of money.  I forget what’s going on at work as soon as my ass hits my car seat.  I have my evenings and weekends to spend as I like.  There are no long hours or late nights.

So why am I “bitching”?  Because it grates on me a little that someone who has no real skill or ability in management will be placed in charge of me because the “paper well”.

Sigh…. 20 more years to go….

 

 

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Stop Talking

Have you ever run into someone who feels the need to speak every time they walk by?  I’m not just talking about the guy who says your name a little louder than needed each time you pass them in the hallway.  I’m not even talking about the guy, obviously raised by a single mom, who doesn’t understand urinal etiquette and asks, “How’s it going” while you’re both standing there.  I’m talking about the guy who walks up to your desk and starts a conversation about absolutely nothing.

In my case it is a guy I report to.  As it stands right now, while the project is staffing up, I am the only person who reports to him.  As such, in just under three days, we have apparently become old friends.

He stops by my desk with a notepad and pen in hand and says, “Questions for me?”  Apparently unaware that if I had any questions I would have come to his desk and asked them.  Interestingly, when I do go to his desk with a question there is generally no good answer forthcoming.  That’s what I do… I ask the questions you don’t have the answers for.

In any event, he has become fascinated with the various aspects of my life.

I have always been something of a conundrum to the majority of the people I work with.  Though to be fair there are usually one or two people at every workplace who get me.  This guy is not one of those people.  But man he sure is trying!

As I have said on several occasions, I am a defense contractor.  I spend much of my time surrounded by people in various stages of business attire.  From time to time a few of them whip out their Master’s degrees to see whose is bigger.  There are lots of shiny shoes…and shiny cars.

I report to work in jeans and a polo.  I am well into the process of getting full sleeves done on both arms.  My definition of “the mission” is to feed my kids and pay the mortgage.  What I do is not my life, it’s the means by which I finance my life.

This guy seems like he wants to get it, but the goofy smile tells me he does not in fact get it.

It appears that to him I am simply a combination of caricatures or things he has seen on TV.  With regard to my tattoos for instance, upon learning that I have quite a bit of ink his response was, “Freakin’ Navy guys.”  I have never served…

I mentioned an expression we in the gaming community use, and his reply was, “Gaming community?  Are you a WoW’er?”  Like everyone who plays games plays WoW.  Or more to the point, WoW is the only game he is familiar with.

Yesterday he came up to my desk and asked me if I have written any SOP’s yet.  We are three guys sitting in an Ops Center that is not operational yet.  The other two guys are the Op Center Lead and the CND Lead.  I was brought on in an entry level capacity.  My purpose in being here is to learn the tools and skills, and gain the experience, to continue on a Security track during the remainder of my career.  In other words, I’m here to learn.  But he wants to know if I’ve written any SOP’s yet…

I left a position in property management  to come here.  At the moment of my departure I had no interest in continuing in that capacity.  Security has always been of interest to me.  Property accountability and management has never been of interest to me.  But I have to say, this morning I really started thinking about that position.

Having to chase technical certifications every year and dealing with high stress, high consequence situations, may not be as much fun as I imagined.  I will have to give that more thought.  But there is one thing about which I am certain.  Two actually..

  1. I do not like when people who do not know me talk to me like they do know me.  It’s presumptuous and irritating.
  2. The people that I work with are the largest contributor to whether or not I enjoy my job.  They create the environment.  They make the day go faster…or slower.  So if this guy doesn’t stop talking, we’re going to have a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Answer for EmmaLeigh

Some time ago my daughter asked me what the difference was between liberals and conservatives.  At the time I didn’t really feel like I had an answer I could verbalize, though I certainly felt like I knew the difference.  In the wake of the death of Justice Scalia I have been thinking a lot about the direction of this nation, and it’s possible direction if the current President manages to get a liberal loon on the court.  So EmmaLeigh, here is your answer.

Let me start by saying that sarcasm is my manner of speech.  This post will be no different.  If that offends anyone who reads it, let me say up front…I don’t care.  I’m 45 not 25.  I don’t give a shit about your feelings.

Let me add that everything I will write here is from direct observation, direct contact, and personal conversations.  I am not quoting Rush Limbaugh, or Fox News, or any of the other things people might say.  Liberals actually are crazy, so many of the points of view expressed will not make sense to a normal person.  But, people with working brains are becoming a smaller and smaller segment of our population anyway…so what the hell.

So Em, let me first start by helping you to identify a liberal.  Meet Obama Girl.  She believed that the election of Obama meant she wouldn’t have to worry about putting gas in her car or paying her mortgage.  This is the first sign that you are speaking to a liberal.  They believe that the United States Government exists to give them money.

The term “liberal” is generally regarded as meaning “Democrat”.  But the actual truth is that while “liberal” does cover all Democrats it also covers somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the Republican Party as well.  At least in terms of social programs, which is pretty much the defining issue that separates the two.

You see, conservatives believe in equal opportunity.  Level the playing field and let the chips fall where they may.  We believe in a safety net for those who have fallen into desperate circumstances.  We believe in a hand up.  We believe it is best to teach a man to fish rather than give him one.

Liberals on the other hand, believe in equality of outcome.  They believe that if I have $10 and you have $0, then I owe you $5.  They believe that the playing field is not, never has been, and never will be, level.  They believe the “safety net” should be about 3 inches below your feet.  They believe in hand outs, welfare, and the “give a man a fish” method, which leads to generational dependence.  Why?  Because when you provide everything a group of people needs, those people will continue to vote for you.  This is the actual reason for the Democrats insisting on amnesty for illegals, because it opens “a path to citizenship”, which allows for voting…which adds more Democrats to the voter registration rolls.

Liberals will frequently refer to conservatives as racists.  Interestingly, I am 45 years old…and I have been white most (if not all) of my life.  I’m what you might call a redneck, biker type of guy.  I shoot guns, drink beer, ride Harleys, and occasionally raise hell.  Yet the most racist people I know…are all black.  Every single one of them in fact.  And statistically speaking, if you are talking to a black person you are talking to a Democrat.

Liberals believe that conservatives are waging a “war on women”.  Primarily due to the generally accepted conservative position on abortion.  Interestingly, these people do not care about the “war on children” which has resulted in 50,000,000+ children being aborted since Roe v Wade.  And the deluded black person that votes Democrat, doesn’t seem to get that the highest percentage of those abortions is taking place in their community.  Which is in keeping with the mission statement of Planned Parenthood, as it was founded by Margaret Sanger for the purpose of controlling the black population.  But hey…I’m the racist… lol

Liberals believe that if you would like the border of your nation to be secure; if you would like only people who are eligible to vote, to vote; and if you don’t believe America should be invaded by third world countries and eventually turned into one; then you are a racist and a xenophobe that hates people from other countries.

Liberals believe that personal failure is someone else’s fault, and that the government should step in to save you.  Generally speaking this is done with money confiscated at gun point from productive people.  Liberals do not believe in personal responsibility, parental guidance, discipline, or basically any other commonly accepted manner of achieving success.  In fact, liberals hate success.

The light of one person’s success shines on another person’s failure.  This is unfair.  However, rather than seek to make the unsuccessful person successful, liberals seek to punish the success of the person who succeeded, confiscate his wealth, and give it to the person who failed.  Of course that person failed because they are not equipped to succeed, and so they fail again.  Which perpetuates the cycle.  Which is exactly what the liberals want to have happen.

Find someone you know who is “on the system”.  Welfare, food stamps, Section 8, etc.  Ask that person what programs are in place to get them off the system.  You may be surprised to learn that the answer is…none.  If they make a dollar, attend a class, take on a room mate, or do anything else in an effort to rise up from their position, their benefits will be cut.  Because the purpose and design is not to elevate people, it is to perpetuate the misery.  Because after all…if no one was on welfare, where would welfare workers work?

Essentially it boils down to this.  If you hear someone saying something completely stupid, the more stupid the statement the more likely a liberal is speaking.  If you hear someone railing against the rich, from the tarmac while standing beside their private jet…that’s a liberal.  If you hear a Congressman ask whether stationing more troops on Guam is a good idea as the island might tip over…that’s a liberal.  If you hear someone rant against any activity while simultaneously engaging in said activity…that’s a liberal.

Bottom line answer…

Conservatives believe in a Representative Republic; self determination; the rule of law; the sovereignty of the citizen; limited government.  Liberals believe in European Socialism.  Whether it’s Eastern European or Western European depends on the liberal.

So basically, conservatives want to conserve the things that made America the greatest nation in the history of the world.  Liberals want to right all the wrongs, and create equality by implementing Socialism.  Which, of course, has never worked in the history of the world.  But, they have destroyed the education system (intentionally) and thus the public has no knowledge of any of this.

If for some reason you believe I am exaggerating, ask yourself this question:  College isn’t free.  Someone has to pay the teachers, keep the lights on, cut the grass, etc.  So where is the money coming from to pay for the “free college” that Bernie Sanders is promoting as we speak?  (Hint: your pocket)  They call it a “tax on Wall Street”.  And when they say “Wall Street” you think of various movies you’ve seen with fat cats in limos and stuff.  But let me turn “Wall Street” into what it actually is.  Your 401k plan.  Your IRA.  Your pension.  Your investments.  Your 403B.  In other words…ALL the money the middle class has saved or invested…that’s “Wall Street”.

You’ll have to decide how you feel about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of My Success

Driving in to work this morning I was thinking about my life.  Where I am.  Where I came from.  How I got from there to here.  Where I’m going next.  It occurred to me that this story might be educational, instructive, or inspirational to someone, so I thought I’d share it.  For those who live their lives as perpetual victims of circumstance, for whom no solution is possible or even desired, this story will mean nothing to you.  You will chalk it up to luck or privilege, shrug and move on.  Which is why you will continue to fail, and I will not.

In 1988 I came home from school and told my mother, “these morons can’t teach me anything, school is a waste of my time”.  She agreed to sign the paperwork for me to drop out if I would get my GED within 90 days.  So I quit school, got my GED, and went to work.  Big mistake!  I should have went to college.  But my dad was a career NSA cryptologist, and I wanted to be anything in the world other than a white collar cube weenie.  So I headed out in to the great big world, and pursued my blue collar dreams.

At the age of 19 I married my first wife.  Big mistake!  I loved the woman, and still do.  But, we were too young and inexperienced.  We were diametrically opposed in many ways, and the marriage didn’t last long.  So we got divorced and I immediately remarried.

I can’t say the second marriage was a big mistake.  We had some good times.  I have two wonderful children and a pretty awesome extended (albeit ex) family.  Nevertheless, we drifted apart for a long time and then we split up.

At the point in time of my second divorce I was driving a local delivery truck for a vending supply company.  I was making $400 a week.  I had child support payments to make.  I was living in a roach infested studio apartment in a income restricted apartment community on the wrong side of Newport News, Va.  I had no health insurance or any other type of benefits.  I had no education, no connections, no opportunities for advancement, and no hope for the future.  (Pause there for a moment)

I have, for a very long time, used a man walking in shadow as an online avatar (one of many).  That’s because for most of my life I have walked in a grey area between two worlds.  There are two different people thought to be “me”, and which one you perceive depends on the place you are standing when you look.

On the one hand I am “street” Doug.  I am a big guy with tattoos and earrings.  I ride a Harley-Davidson.  I own a number of guns. I wave the flag, spit tobacco, and cuss like a sailor.  This side of me is very much like my uncles from my mother’s side.  There’s a lot of Eddie and Bill in me I think, though I never really spent much time around either of them.

In that environment I am seen 100% of the time in blue jeans and black Harley shirts.  I live in a modest 1800 square foot 3bed/3bath home on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, Va.  I keep mostly to myself, except for online gaming.  And I am the most successful person I know.

To the people in this environment I am “rich”.  I am also “lucky”.  The people I know best have made an utter mess of their lives, most of them are so broke they have to think about whether they can afford McDonald’s or not.  Almost none of them have the freedom to simply do whatever it is they feel like doing on any given day.  Because I do, in their eyes, I live a charmed life.

It was thinking about this thought process that made me sit down to write this post this morning.  Because it is how I am perceived in the second community, and how I perceive myself there, that gets to the heart of what I’m thinking about.

In the other community where I am perceieved, I am one of the least successful people I know.  I trade in the Harley tee-shirt for a polo and report to work in an office full of suits and ties.  I am a high school dropout surrounded by people with Bachelor and Masters degrees.  As a result, I am one of the lowest paid individuals in my workplace.  I know people who pay cash for brand new cars and own their homes outright.  I cannot do those things.  I know people who travel the world, own vacation homes, pretty much “living the dream”.  I cannot do those things (yet).

In this environment I am tolerated.  Mainly because I have endeared myself to the upper management.  I am not a yes man or an ass-kisser.  I will walk in to the boss’s office and say, “You’re fucking up”.  Some don’t like that…so I have lost some jobs.  But, some like the breath of fresh air that comes from hearing the truth.  I was in fact hired for my current position specifically because the VP of the prime told me to my face, “I need someone who’s not afraid to tell me I’m making a mess of things.  You’re that guy.”

So what I wanted to get at this morning is…why I was able to make the transition when so many others appear unable to do so.  The answer is simple to say and difficult to do.  Mainly because it is related to character, and that is something few people are even aware of, much less have the ability to modify.

Too many people these days seek the easy way out.  Too many of my associates over the years have adopted a mindset that since they don’t have anything, they don’t have anything to lose.  So, they make stupid choices that result in painful consequences.  Sometimes these consequences have a permanent, life-altering effect.  In the professional world I live in these are called CLE’s (Career Limiting Events).  An example would be telling your boss to go fuck himself, or getting caught stealing from the company (or in my case the government).

I have associates that are convicted felons.  They are struggling financially because work is hard to find when you are a felon.  But they believe I’m “lucky”.  As if it was luck that I didn’t rob a liquor store, or shoot somebody, or assault my ex-wife.

You chose the friends that put you in front of the liquor store that night, and then you chose to go through with the robbery.  You chose to have sex with the 3 women you have kids with, and now you are saddled with back breaking child support payments.  You chose to date or marry some crazy bitch that you ended up punching in the face during a heated altercation.  I simply made better choices than you did.  Luck had nothing to do with it.

In conjunction with making better choices most of the time, I also refused to accept the permanent negative repercussions of my mistakes.  I did not look around at my section 8 housing and my beat up used car and figure, “Oh well, this is how my life is going to be.  I may as well smoke a joint and bang a couple of crackheads”.  I looked at those things and thought, “This is unacceptable.  How can I change it?”

So I signed up for CCNA classes at ECPI.  I took out a student loan for $6,000 and overpaid by half to take 7 months worth of classes.  I drove that truck all day, and went to school 5 hours on Friday night and 5 hours Saturday morning, every week for 7 months.  On the last Friday of class my boss called me in and fired me.  I went to the testing center the next morning and took the CCNA exam with knots in my stomach.  My head was hurting, my eyes were burning, I had sat up all night trying to both study and figure out how I was going to pay the rent.  Nevertheless…I passed.  And so, in 2004, I very proudly announced that I was a CCNA, unemployed and looking for an entry level position as a network engineer.

What I got instead…was crickets.  And here came the only place I can identify in my entire life where “luck” played a part.

My girlfriend at the time lived about 2 1/2 hours north of me.  She groomed dogs for a living at Petsmart.  She had a customer that was fanatical about caring for his dog and he wouldn’t let anyone but her touch it.  She told the man that she was moving to live with me and would no longer be able to groom his dog.  He reacted by asking her what he had to do to get her to stay.  She kinda flippantly said, “That’s easy, just get my boyfriend a job here”.  So he did…

And now you’re thinking “Aha!  See!  You WERE lucky!”  I guess.  Except the job I got was not in networking.  He got me a job as a cable installer.  Standing on a ladder 8-10 hours a day pulling wire over my head.  10 years later my shoulders are all fucked up.  I have already had one surgery to repair damage to my neck, and shoulder surgery appears likely in the not too distant future.

But it was “technology”, and it paid better than what I was making driving the truck.  It was also a job with benefits.  So I took it.  I packed up my life, moved to my girlfriend’s apartment, which she shared with another guy and his son, and reported to work.  I pretty much lived my entire life in a bedroom, in someone else’s apartment.

Six months later the contract ended and I was let go.  So I called a man I had had some contact with previously and asked him if he was still hiring.  He asked if I could start Monday.  I did.  And went right back to doing more cabling.

So follow me for a second.  I was making about $10 driving the truck (based on a 40 hour week, even though I put in way more than 40 hours).  The first cabling job paid $14 an hour.  The second cabling job paid $20 an hour.  Eventually I wound up working for a third company doing cabling and making $24 an hour.  But, I hated what i did for a living…

So one day, while working on a classified site, I asked the guy escorting me around what he made to stand there and watch me work.  Long story short, I applied for his job and got it.  And I took a pay cut from $24 an hour to $19 an hour, and spent 19 months standing around watching paint dry (literally sometimes) just so I could get a clearance.

Eventually I was offered a job punching down patch panels for 80k a year.  I was simultaneously offered a job working in a NOC/Helpdesk for 72k a year.  I took the NOC (Network operations Center) job.  I wanted to expand my horizons and open up future opportunities, so I took the lower pay for the brighter future.

A series of similar decisions led me to where I am today.  Always working hard and earning the reputation that got me the next opportunity.  Always moving in to a position with more responsibility, more stress, and more new things for me to learn.  I haven’t actually held a job I was qualified for in about 10 years.  I just get in because someone knows someone I worked with on the last project, and then I earn my right to be there once I arrive.

In 2004 I made about $20,000 and my wife made about $18,000.  In 2012 when we filed out taxes our combined gross income was $192,000.  Which makes us “lucky” to all those people stuck in dead end, minimum wage, aint gonna be shit, jobs.  But I would propose to you that it is not luck that put us where we are, and I will tell you why.

My wife works nights.  I work days.  We see each other for a few hours twice a week.  We both drive 150 miles round trip every day to get to work and back.  We were both willing to make sacrifices with regard to positions and salaries, locations, travel time, etc., in order to get to where we wanted to be.  I, for example, wake up at 3:45 a.m. 5 days a week to drive in to work.

Too many people are unwilling to take a step backward or sideways in order to correct their trajectory.

As an example, I was offered two openings on the next contract I am going to.  One paid what I am making now, and involves system administration, which is what I am doing now.  The other comes with a $20,000 pay cut, and is a position as a junior network engineer.  I chose the $20,000 pay cut, because finally, after all these years, I will have a chance to do what I wanted to do in the first place, become a network engineer.  In a couple of years I will move from a junior engineer to a senior engineer and I will command more money than I am making now.  I am willing to make the sacrifice.

In contrast, I have a former associate who got thrown out of his apartment and was living with another friend along with his baby mama and the friend’s girlfriend.  He’s broke.  He lost his apartment because he could not pay the rent.  He has failed to pay child support for so long that he was served with notice that he will be going to jail (back to jail actually) if he does not catch up.

So finally, after months and months of searching he finds a good job at a 3M plant.  He can finally pay his bills and take care of his kids.  Hell, maybe he can even afford a game every now and then for his PS4 (don’t get me started on a guy with a PS4 that doesn’t pay his child support).

So what does this titan of intellect do?  He quits the job.  Why?  Because 3M makes adhesives, so once you report to work for the day you are not allowed to exit and reenter the plant (because of dust).  This guy couldn’t take smoke breaks…so he quit.  Presumably he is now taking all the smoke breaks he can fit in to his busy schedule…in prison.

So what is the “secret” to my success?  Make smart choices.  Persevere through tough times when things aren’t going your way.  Be willing to step back or sideways if need be when you need to get around an obstacle blocking your path.  Be VERY careful about who you associate with and who you allow to have influence in your life.  Most of all, if you’re not happy with your life CHANGE IT!

I guess REO Speedwagon could have summed this entire post up in one line.

If you’re tired of the same old story…baby, turn some pages.

Nothing

On September 2nd. I woke up in the most pain I’ve ever been in. My neck and upper back were absolutely killing me, my right arm was on fire.

I went to see a chiropractor the next morning and began a series of treatments. But, after two weeks of absolutely excruciating pain I decided to go see an orthopedic surgeon. I had x-rays, and MRI, and was put on gabapentin. The MRI revealed I have two bulging discs in my neck compressing my spine, thus leading to the pain in my arm. I was referred to a pain management center where I received an epidural in the middle of my back. That shot seems to have mostly done the trick. I have a follow-up visit with the orthopedic surgeon on the 19th and anticipate returning to work on the 24th. Yes dear reader, I have been out of work since September 2.

I could spend much of this post describing the pain that I was in, but that would be boring. People say sometimes bad things happen for a reason and good things come out of them. The people who often say that our religious individuals, who believe that God is trying or testing them. Some are just optimists, who choose to see the good for the bad. Some cannot accept that life is random and so they look for meaning in things that are meaningless. I don’t know maybe I fall into that last category.
I spent the time from early February to the beginning of July, unemployed.  I worked July, August, and two days in September. I’ve been at home since then. Needless to say this hasn’t been a great year financially. But, it has shown me several things.

1) We have very nearly gotten to the point where we can survive off just my wife’s income.
2) There are a lot of things in this life more important than money.
3) Time, and the people you spend it with are your most valuable resource.

I have spent a lot of time in game, recruiting new people and getting to know them. In the time that I’ve been home our clan has grown. I have made many new friends, and gotten to know some of them very well. I believe I will be playing with many of these people for years to come. I have grown as a leader/manager, and as a person. I have been able to form the foundation of what I believe will one day be a large organization, built on these people. And, I have had the opportunity to meet some awesome individuals that I respect immensely. So, looking at this strictly from the gaming perspective these last several months have been tremendously productive.

However, the event that stands out most in my mind from these last three months is one that would seem to most folks to be insignificant. I have only actually left my house, or even gone outside, about 10 times the entire time I’ve been off. When everything hurts finding a comfy spot is more important than fresh air and sunshine. But, I was headed out to a physical therapy appointment the other day, and as I walked across my porch a rustling in the yard caught my ear.

It was one of those chilly autumn days. Not “cold” per se, but “brisk”. The kind of weather where you need a jacket but the chilly breeze on your face feels good. Leaves were rustling in the yard and as I turned my attention I became entranced for a moment.

I live in a clearing. I am surrounded on three sides by woods. On the fourth side is a small, unmarked, two-lane, dead end road.  It is very quiet here, except for the sounds nature intended.  At the moment I am describing, those are the sounds I could hear.

The leaves rustling in the yard focused my hearing, and I became aware of birds in the trees around me, squirrels jumping from branch to branch, and something larger and more cautious (likely a deer) treading carefully in the woods on the other side of my driveway.

I took in the colors of the leaves all around me, and the stark contrast as the pine trees became the only thing green I could see.  The sky was grey.  Not like rain was coming, but that cold, grey sky that says winter is headed your way.  There were buzzards circling above, silently patrolling for dead critters that needs to be cleaned up.  I glanced down at the potted roses on my porch.  Their petals falling off as the nights have been cold lately, but new shoots still trying to form as the warmer days seem to be confusing them.

And for a moment I wondered to myself, how much more full of meaningful moments would my life be if I could slow down?  If I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.  If each moment were my own, and I could choose in that moment what I wanted to do with it.  What if I could spend an afternoon sitting on the porch watching spiders weave their webs and birds come to the feeder?  What if I didn’t have to cram everything I could in to today because tomorrow I had to go back to work?

“Money can’t buy you happiness”.  Oh my dear misinformed reader, it most certainly can.  This mantra is muttered by broke-ass bitches all the world over.  And they are encouraged, by well meaning fools, to “count their blessings”, love themselves as they are, etc.  Rather than go develop a plan to make more of it, they are encouraged to accept life as it is and find happiness where they are at.

Money cannot buy you happiness in the sense that you can go to Walmart and buy it.  But it can afford you time to spend in activities you enjoy with people you love.  It can afford you independence, and the ability to do what you like and to not do what you do not like.

As an example, how many people go to work every day at a job they hate?  Why don’t they quit?  Universally, the answer is “I’ve got bills to pay” or “I need the paycheck”.  Well…what if you didn’t?  What if you went to work because you wanted to.  What if you went because you enjoyed your job, and if the day came that you no longer enjoyed it, you could simply leave?

Those moments on my porch brought back in to focus how many years I have spent living with a sense of urgency, cramming my days with things, never taking the time to enjoy them.  How many roses I have passed, never stopping to smell them.  How many conversations I have rushed through, and perhaps never heard.  How many people that could have added something to my life, that I have hurriedly passed by without a second glance.

These moments awakened in me a desperation, and set me on a new course with a plan forming in my head as we speak.

I am now desperate for nothing, and urgently seeking the most direct path to get there.  I may even begin a new blog simply to chronicle the journey from here to nowhere.

In the most general terms it involves paying off everything we owe as quickly as I can, and then dumping every dollar I can spare in to income generating investments until I get to the place where I can do…nothing.  Obviously the specifics will require refinement and planning, but that’s the general concept.  Whether here, as a general posting, or in a new blog created for that purpose, I will keep the readers updated on my progress.

The key is to generate enough wealth to maintain an acceptable lifestyle without employment.  it is not sufficient to sit inside my house because I cannot afford to go anywhere.  In that circumstance I am still trapped, just in a different environment.  To be truly free, I must be able to do nothing because that is what I choose to do in that moment, not because it’s the only choice I have.  And that is what money can buy you.  Choices…which in my book, leads to happiness.

Here I Go Again

It’s 7:13 a.m.  People are beginning to straggle in to my office.  I’ve already been here for nearly 2 hours.

Ever get to work and then discover there are stains on the front of your pants?  Did you care?  I don’t.

Yesterday I was joking around with the woman in the cube next to me.  I asked her if the phone call she was on was a personal call.  (As we are supposed to be using our office phones for work related conversations.)  She asked me what I was going to do about it.  I jokingly said, “Deborah, don’t make me come over there.”  As I have said to countless people over the years.  Then, from across the cube wall Deborah’s self appointed bodyguard says, “Be careful Doug”.  Deborah says to me, “Did you hear what my friend said?”  I replied, “I wasn’t sweating anybody before he got here, I’m still not sweating anybody.”  Captain dumb-ass says, “Well then walk on over here buddy, I guarantee you won’t walk back.”  This guy has been here for two days.  He doesn’t know me, or anything about me.

Sigh…

I have to be very careful about what I say next.

Generally speaking, I am not the sort of person that you threaten.  I am also not the sort of person to sit around telling you what I’m going to do.  If I have decided to do something you will usually know about it as it is being done.  My mind however, does race with all the possible responses.  Verbal and non-verbal responses.  But I am not so foolish as to sit here and document any of those thoughts.

I’ve decided that knowing and conversing with Deborah has not added anything worth noting to my life, and so it is not worth dealing with the moron on the other side of the wall over.  Because he will continue to run his mouth, and eventually both our careers will be ruined when I have to shut it.  To be honest, if you’ve read any of my previous posts you are likely pondering the notion that I don’t much care about my “career”.  If you know me at all you are certain that I don’t care at all about his.  You’d be right on both counts.  But we are in a federal building doing classified work for the U.S. Government.  I am not inclined to spend time in jail over some no count scrub.

You do have to wonder what goes through people’s minds.  I’m 44, not 16.  Does this guy think we’re going to throw down in the office?  He “guarantees” I won’t walk back?  Really?

I gotta stop.  Just suffice it to say that I’m too young to die and too old to take an ass whoopin’.  So anyone expecting to “fight” me is going to be in for a bit of a shock.

I imagine that sometime shortly Deborah will notice that I have nothing else to say to her.  We’ll see how her buddy reacts to that.  I don’t much care.  But it is intriguing to find that even 26 years out, you can still walk in to high school on any given morning.  It is worth noting that some of the people who read this blog knew me in high school.  I wasn’t someone you threaten then, either.

Anyway, I imagine the sun is up.  I won’t see it until this afternoon sometime.

Another long day of utter incompetence on the part of management, next to zero productivity on the part of the employees, and thousands of wasted tax-payer dollars to look forward to.  This is why I get a kick out of people who believe government has the answers.  You are reading what your government is like.  Over the course of several years I have written these entries from various spaces, working for various agencies, on different contracts, different shifts, different companies.  But the tale remains the same.

It gets worse.  As contractors we actually have metrics and deadlines to meet, and we can be removed from a contract for failure to perform.  The actual government employee has no such fear.  They can simply show up for 30 years, produce nothing, and retire with a nice pension.

Anyway, it’s time to go to “work”.  If anyone falls down an elevator shaft or anything, I’ll update this later.

Happy Hour

I cancelled the happy hour for this afternoon.

Normally a group of people from my job get together on Wednesday afternoons and sit in a bar for 3-4 hours.  Mainly because if I don’t leave work by 2:30 there is no point in leaving until after 6.

We sit around and talk about work, and the world, and home.  We drink, and truths are spoken.  Workplace inappropriate things are said.  Usually a good time is had by all.

I have considered the possibility of recording these events as some sort of internet version of Cheers.  I am certain people would subscribe to see the train wreck that is my co-workers and I sitting around getting tipsy.  It’s quite the group we’ve put together.  I have given each of these people nicknames, some of which have been adopted by the group, some of which are peculiar to me.

There’s the fiercely independent middle aged woman, who laments the fact that there’s someone for everyone but her.  I have to admit, she rolls with the punches very well.  She’s funny.  But she draws lines in odd places.  Like the lines between the things she will talk about and the things she won’t.  I call her “Short-round”, because she reminds me of the kid from Indiana Jones, with the wooden blocks tied to her feet so she can drive the car.

There’s the sexually liberated woman.  Completely comfortable with herself,  yet desperately seeking the attention (thus reassurance) of the men in the room.  She’ll talk about anything.  And if you ask her in a crowded bar whether she has any tattoos, she’ll tug down the front of her pants to show them to you.  She’s trying to hold on to a life as it passes by, and I can’t say I blame her.  I call her “Third base”, because she plays softball….. (ahem)

There’s the older gentleman.  Full of facts, figures, quotes and trivia.  I once looked across the table and asked him to take 90 seconds to pontificate on the generally accepted 7 mistakes Hitler made.  Just out of the blue, with no preamble.  One of the other people at the table said, “I think he made more than 7”, and right on cue the older gentleman said, “Well, what’s interesting about that is….”  I cracked up.  I am not sure why he attends.  The women are too racy, I am too blunt and loud, and he shares little in common with most of us.  But he is there, week after week.  Perhaps out of loneliness.  He has never been married, so I call him “No Ho Yet”.

Then there is “Dances With Hippies”.  A woman in her 50’s, with tales to tell of a misspent youth.  Oddly, the most reflective of the bunch.  She plays the straight man to my joker, and though she sets me up perfectly for punchlines, there is a quality about her I cannot fully describe at this moment.  She is definitely more of a “heal the planet, man” (Cheech and Chong voice) type person than I am, but there’s something there that I connect to.  I’m just not sure what it is yet.

There is the team lead/former team lead/leader of a new team with no one on it.  I call him “Vanilla” because there is nothing non-generic about the guy.  The girls call him “SB” (sexy butt).  He attends, I think, in order to avoid going home for a bit.  My wife laughs because I cannot say her name without smiling (I tell her that it’s because she’s goofy).  This guy sighs when you ask him about his wife.  I don’t think this deal is going to last too long, but time will tell.

“Jabber”, is a mousy brunette that talks a mile a minute, agrees with almost anything you say, and declines to make eye contact with most of the people at the table over the course of the evening.  To be honest, I have not yet uncovered her motivations either.  Other than, perhaps, simply a desire to be seen and heard.  She rides home with me most evenings, since we live in the same area.  When songs she likes come on the radio she bounces in the seat like a little kid that just got a puppy.

There are some others that show up from time to time, but these are the regulars.  I, of course, am the loud, completely politically incorrect person who simply says what I think whenever I think it.  Which makes me the clown at the table, and the life of the party.  If you see the people at my table shaking their heads while laughing and staring at the floor, it is likely that I just said something that only I would say.

Though I have to admit, I am not the only one.  I asked Jabber about her kids one evening at the bar and she replied, “I’ve got two kids.”  Then after a pause she kinda shook her head and said, “I shoulda just took it in the butt”.  Watching the old man’s entire bald head turn red was priceless.

I suspect though, were we to try to record it, people would play to the camera and it would not flow naturally, which is in the end what makes it funny.  Perhaps some day I will give it a shot.

But this evening I am in more of a moody, contemplative state.  Which is not a good time for me to be consuming alcohol.  Instead of fun and provocative I become confrontational and combative.  So, in the interests of good working relationships, and a group willing to continue to show up, I have cancelled this evening’s festivities.

The fact that half the group is on vacation this week was also a factor.