Saturday, June 30, 2018

So Hard

So hard to keep the momentum going with this writing thing, but I must make time for it. I owe this to myself, there's nothing wrong with claiming 30 minutes a day to write and if it's OK to take 30, it's probably even better to take 60. The whole rest of the day is about them and me doing things that serve their interests, it's OK for me to claim 4% of the day for me, right?

Part of the struggle of writing is what do I write about? I don't want to get into too much navel gazing, cataloging the myriad ways that the universe has done me wrong or even the process of writing have been done to death. Besides, I have too much to be grateful for to make complaints the focus of my writing. 

The process, if I'm going to engage in the "process" then perhaps I should take this offline and get into some sort of writing group? I saw that one meets at the NorthEast Library on Thursday evenings, that would match the cadence of going to Thursday night rugby practice and be something all stakeholders (the fam) could understand and incorporate into their lives. Maybe I need to demand that they all clear the decks for me on Thursday evening, so that I can pursue my interests.

But if I’m going to get all bossy and start asking for things, perhaps I should focus my efforts on going back to school. I’ve talked about this grad school thing already and if I’m putting on my analyst hat, when we compare joining a writing group to pursue some Quixotic dream of being writer and going to grad school, it’s clear that the bet that will pay is getting a graduate degree.

In DC there’s so much educational inflation, it’s almost impossible to advance to the big game without a graduate degree unless you have some sort of very specialized undergraduate degree. Maybe it’s not educational inflation, maybe there is some value to be had from a graduate degree. In the program I’m looking at right now, every single class relates to what I do professionally. There’s no abstractions or filler or bullshit, this is what I want and need to know.

Welp, at this point it’s pretty clear what I need to do: get my dumb ass back in school.


PS – I’m 100 words short of my 500 word goal for the day, but I’m going to let it go because I got what I needed to get out of this session….that happened in 20 minutes.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Red Wedding? Meh, Not Really

I referred to 3 of 5 people from my company getting let go by our government customer the “Red Wedding” earlier today on Twitter. That was a bit dramatic, but when that shit happens it always catches you a little off guard. It’s so fucked, the gov’t can’t get their shit together and fund essential functions in a sane and predictable manner from year to year and the result is people lose their jobs. The incompetent boobs that don’t follow basic fiscal and management rules don’t lose THEIR jobs, but rather the people that keep the boobs on the right side of their customers and the law in spite of themselves are the ones who pay the price.

But that’s always what it is when you’re a government contractor, you’re there to help this agency get some shit done and no matter what you have to produce. There may be a vengeful little bureaucrat throwing obstacles in your way to protect their turf, you may be locked in a government contractor death match with another company, but mostly you’re fighting inertia. The constant refrain of, “Well, we can’t do that because it’s never been done before!” Despite all of that, we produce and when things get tight we are disposed of with the same amount of thought you give to a wad of used tissue.

I don’t know maybe it’s time for me to give in, join the dark side, and become a Fed. My biggest hesitation with that is what agency could I possibly commit to long term? Despite my complaints about the lack of stability as a government contractor, part of what has made me effective over the years is the fact that I’ve worked with a bunch of different agencies in a variety of capacities and I’ve successfully synthesized those experiences into an analytical mass that’s able to understand and communicate complex issues. I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself working with the same people, in the same building, on the same shit for 5, 10, 15 years running. Hell, the longest I’ve ever worked in one place was 6 years and even then I was hired 4 times by 3 different companies to do the same job.

How does that happen, getting hired 4 times by 3 different companies for the same job you ask? Well I was originally hired by Death Star, Inc and things were cool for about 18 months when the contract fuckery started.  This was quite a number of years ago when the government was still handing out T&M contracts like tic-tacs and they wanted to move Death Star, Inc to a FFP contract. Unlike most contracting officers, this one knew what they were doing and put the squeeze on through some sort of contractual machinations.

We all knew the writing was on the wall and one of the things I learned early on in government contracting is that when the ship is going down, be the first rat off the ship. Don’t wait around hoping shit is going to work out, it’s not. Don’t believe for one second that the company is going to hook you up, they’re not. But the beautiful part of working for a massive company is that it’s relatively easy to jump around from job to job internally. So that’s what I did, I found a job that I was qualified for, applied, and got the job in a matter of weeks just as the shit was hitting the fan. Of course Death Star, Inc fucked me on the money because the slot I moved to was supposed to pay more than I was making at the time, but whatever. I left a couple of weeks ahead of the contract being terminated and everyone I was working with at the time had to drive out to corporate everyday for a couple weeks while they were "on the bench." While I'm in exile on this other contract things eventually get worked out on my original contract and they go back to work, a few months later I get a call from my old boss inviting me back home so I go back. Hired 2 times for the same job.

In the fullness of time, the company we're sub-contracting to starts whispering sweet nothings in my bosses' ear about how if he jumps ship and brings this contract and this crew with him they will hook him up. Now this is shady as all fuck to be sure, but we all know what time it is; if Death Star, Inc. could replace any of us for someone they could pay half as much we'd be out the door in seconds flat. So after some palace intrigue, this other company wins the contract and we all jump ship for a nice 20% raise. Hired 3 times for the same job.

Needless to say Death Star, Inc is salty as all fuck about the whole situation (the fact that it was a small Black owned company that did them like this was the horse dick in the kisser) but after a few days of impotent threats they let it go. In fact they let it go so much they forgot to collect our laptops from us and never asked for them back. 

[Smash cut to two years later] The small company I'm working for loses the contract, I suspect that they were low-bridged in some way by Death Star, Inc but whatever. Now I'm working on Section 508 stuff, which is a regulatory requirement and since I'm the resident SME the new company HAD to get me on board. So I jacked those fools up for another 20% raise after some contentious negotiations (which won me no friends) and I was hired for the 4th time to do essentially the exact same job. Except for my brief time in exile, I sat at the same desk and had the same phone number for the whole time.

A year later when the gov't eliminated my position on the contract I initially found out because my work wife at the time was putting together some meeting minutes and saw a reference to it. I asked our gov't customer about it and there was a whole bunch of "humina, humina, humina" before they finally responded with the usual bullshit about you weren't supposed to find out like this, but it was  a week before the end of the fiscal year and that was that.

Remember how I mentioned that my aggressive negotiations won me no friends at my (then) new company? They showed me how much they didn't like the fact that I wasn't afraid to negotiate by not even offering me a week on the bench. In gov't contracting when you're "on the bench" you go out to corporate and try to find something to do while you look for another internal job, depending on how long you've been with a company and what your power base is within it, you could be on the bench for a week or a month or sometimes two months if there's something coming down the pipeline.

So I said all that to say this, I'm not sure I want to be a Fed, but I need to figure something out in the next three months.



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Don't Call It a Comeback

A’ight people here it is. After being overwhelmed by vacations and absences of the people I work for, I find myself with more or less nothing to do at work so I’m trying to make myself write at least 500 words/day for the next couple of weeks. Other things I have planned for my at work vacation are ordering the capacitors I need to revive my TiVo and looking into graduate school and/or registering for a graduate class in the grad program I’m considering.

The TiVo Thing 

Our Tivo box died on us about 3 years ago and we were in the middle of mostly packing up our condo in preparation to move to Chile for six months, so I punted & got the Comcast X1 DVR as a quick fix. We got back to the States and found ourselves locked into getting Verizon FiOS and their horror show of a DVR that doesn’t work as well as our 10 year old TiVo. Finally I have the time and mental capacity to take on repairing the TiVo, so I ordered a new, bigger, pre-baked hard drive, and installed it with no problems. Naturally, it turned out that was only part of the problem and we have a well-documented problem with the power supply too. Argle bargle!!!

A few Google searches and a bit of forum cruising turned up details on what the problem is (bad capacitors) as well as how to ID/replace bad capacitors. It’s a slightly complicated undertaking, but 25 years ago I did a bit of soldering on boards, and in the age of YouTube finding instructional videos is pretty easy. Problem is with my life I’ll never have the 3-4 contiguous hours needed to pull/replace the capacitors and bring that TiVo back to life, so detailed planning is necessary to accommodate doing this in a start/stop fashion. Thankfully this little break at work will allow me to do that.

Grad School

I totally fucked myself when I went back to finish my bachelor’s degree, what I should have done was gotten into finish your bachelor’s/get your master’s degree kind of program and deaded this shit back then. Alas, I was still too invested in my narrative about the stupidity of school (school sucks for the most part, I will die on this hill) to think a little more long term and invest in grad school. I have reached the conclusion that with the way things are as a government contractor, I’m going to be stuck at my current level of Sr. Tech Writer/Analyst or a weak matrix project manager unless I have a graduate degree.

Back when I was still a college dropout and I would be complaining to my Dad about how stupid my boss was or how someone who wasn’t as good as I was got pulled into a management position ahead of me, his response was always that this was the way it was going to be as long as I didn’t have a degree. I knew he was right, but I fought this assessment for many years before I finally went back to school and now I see the same pattern developing again. I’m not exactly falling behind my friends career wise, but rather I’m not in a position to apply for and get the kind of senior positions that give me a seat at the big table because I don’t have a grad degree.

 I want and need a seat at the big table, I’m tired of watching people make the same mistakes over and over again in our government. So grad school is back on the table.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Faint Heartbeat

You know how it is, you sign into your blogger account all full of hope and change. A new resolve to start writing, that you put in writing and then....nothing. So it goes on and on and on, year after year. This fucking blog, sitting here as a testimony to my failed hopes as a writer. Yet, still I motherfucking rise!!! Just do it. Put down the fucking phone, express a thought publicly in more than 140 characters and just see if you have 500 words in you. Quick and dirty, no need for anything more than spitting it out as hard and as fast as you can. It's not even possible cause I was just waylaid by a kid and have to drive the Dad taxi now.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Easy Like Sunday Morning

So here I am, four months into our trip to Valdivia, Chile and I finally decide to write a blog post. As I said . . . a while ago, twitter killed my blog but maybe being in South America can raise it from the dead.

We're getting ready to head over to a friend's house for lunch. We're being hosted by our realtor/fixer (and his family) who has hooked us up with not just a place to live, but also a car, a chimney sweep, a dentist, a place to buy a swim suit in the middle of Winter, you get the picture.

So we've been a few asados down here now, the first one was hosted by one of WifeRat's colleagues from UACH. It was a true blue Chilean asado, we started off with EntraƱa (skirt steak) as an appetizer, then we had a little choripan (sausage on a roll), and finally the main event which was some sort of gigantic beef roast that has no American equivalent. All this was cooked on a "parilla" style grill which I have come to like and appreciate so much I went ahead a bought one for myself.

Andreas, is from Uruguay and has a whole different kind of grill setup. His is a huge thing built out of bricks, so I'll be interested to see how this goes down.

That's it for now, let's see if I can get some momentum going on this blog.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Failure Be Damned!!!!

Despite having the time & inclination to write and/or blog this week during the work day this week, actually mustering the will to do so on a consistent basis has eluded me. Yes, I've been getting my scribble on in the Moleskin notebook my family bought me for Father's Day this year, but I've largely failed at getting blog posts up. But like the title says, FAILURE BE DAMNED!!!!! Yes, I've screwed the pooch and stepped on my dick, but I will not relent, I will not RELENT, I WILL NOT RELENT, I. AM. DRIVEN.

This is no different than pushing through the pain when you're working out, running, lifting, or playing rugby. It's difficult right now and to some degree I can't imagine that it won't ever be difficult, but at the same time I know that if I just keep going that won't be true some day. Part of the way I can allow myself to keep working at this is to remind myself that this is good for everyone. I feel better when I make time to write, I'm better to be around when I make time to write, I'm a better father/husband, and so that means that writing is no longer a selfish act but one that I should compulsively indulge to benefit of all those around me, right? FIN.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Getting It In

OK I fell off of with both my yoga and writing over the 4th of July weekend, but I remain undeterred. And it's not like I haven't been writing at all, I've been drafting bits and pieces of this monthly status report (MSR) a couple of sentences at a time. But since I don't track it, I don't count it as part of my daily writing time.

I'm doing something slightly strange, I'm sitting at a bar with my laptop open and writing. WifeRat has been crashing on finishing a couple of papers and, while I wouldn't say that I was kicked out of the house, it was clear that my presence would be a distraction so I bounced down to U St. to see my boy ButterBurger at the Fainting Goat. I had a good experience writing longhand when I was at Trusty's last week, so I figured I would give drinking and blogging in public a shot.

I've been totally into writing longhand, it's definitely a little freeing to know that whatever you write down isn't likely to find its way into the gaping maw of the internet. Without the distraction of putting in a few links, like I feel somewhat obliged to do in a blog post, I find I write a lot more in a lot less time when I'm literally putting pen to paper. There's also a very primal feeling to writing longhand, like you're connecting with everyone whoever scrawled their thoughts on a piece of paper around the world, across time. Kind of like the Speed Force, only for writing.

This wasn't a great blog post, but I'm getting it in and that's what matters. I continue to work this muscle, to train it, to challenge it, to hone it, to make it better . . . I hope.