Prudence and Frugality

Now that I have a good job (knock on wood) with an excellent salary, and my mortgage paid off, I seem to have more money concerns than ever. Stuff that hangs over my head and I never seem to get done. Consolidating a jumble of accounts scattered everywhere. Figuring out the stock market. Getting my insurance straight. Fixing up the house. Getting payments that the payee lost put back on the record somehow when the bank can't dig up the check from six years ago.

And just plain worrying about the future.

This stuff never seems to get any easier. Maybe it's just me.


Durbin the Aider and Comforter

Senator Durbin:

I am writing to express my outrage and disgust with respect to your comments on the Senate floor about our military.

I have been to S-21, personally. If you do not know what I am talking about, you certainly do not have any business comparing our military to Pol Pot's regime. I have pictures I cannot bear to review. I have seen instruments of torture. They do not consist of a few hours or even days of discomfort. They maim, disfigure, and terrorize for life -- although only 7 people survived Tuol Sleng. If you think that is even remotely comparable to, much less the equivalent of, wet trousers or no air-conditioning, then you have a serious disconnect from all proportion and any reasonable capacity to evaluate inhuman indecency.

I have read the reports of our military's behavior. To compare the well-considered tough decisions of our men and women in service and in leadership positions, and even their mistakes and errors in judgment, to the amoral behavior of sadists like the people who implemented terror in Cambodia is an ignorant and wicked distortion, and the fact that you have made it from a position of authority -- ignoring the benefits, aid, and comfort you bring thereby to people who already think chopping off random civilians' heads is just fine and dandy -- truly sickens me.

Whoever runs against you in your next campaign will receive my donation dollars.




Me, not the link, which goes to (one of) the original speculator(s) as to the peanuttiness of last year's Dim Dem candidate for the Presidency.

I was particularly struck by this passage:
"My point wasn’t that Kerry’s performance at Yale proved that he was intellectually inferior to Bush. My point was that there was absolutely no reason to believe that Kerry was an intellectual giant. Intellectual giants leave footprints indicating as much. Bill Clinton, for instance, didn’t receive four D’s during his freshman year at Georgetown and this was in spite of coming from Nowhere, Arkansas, where[as] Kerry had attended a series of the country’s (and Switzerland’s) finest prep schools."
(my emphasis)

You know, there is something about this that is just so despicable that I can hardly stand it. It's not the grades, obviously, although to be perfectly frank, as someone who never had any trouble in any school or any class on any subject if I may be so immodest -- despite, like Prez #42, growing up in the benighted South -- I will admit to feeling some contempt for four frickin' Ds in a year (semester?). But the constant deception and dismissal of skeptics while skating and embellishing a reputation he knows he doesn't deserve ... and if he didn't personally & publicly pontificate on his own mental prowess compared to M. George, he certainly did with interviewers in private and never discounted the "nuanced" assertions of others ... it's almost pathological.

As much as I never liked anything about TeRAYza, she never seemed to lack brains -- lack of sense, yes, but not fundamental brainpower. I wonder if she's content with the bargain she's ended up with, now. I'd hate to be a servant in that house.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a rich and powerful person who wants a boytoy around, but a pretentious, inept, and mildly cursed Lurch of a boytoy? Not exactly the deal of the day.



James writes the best stuff:

"But if an infidel touches the book with the wrong hand and people react like a two-year-old whose peas are touching the mashed potatoes, well, I understand why this matters, but when measured against the sins of headchoppery and carbombs, it pales to an evanescent translucence."


Surrounding yourself with leaders

Found the linked post above via Carnival of the Capitalists, and it got me thinking. Not only is this more-or-less how things seem to work on this new team here at my new job -- with a soupcon more of classic leadership provided by our fearless semi-leader -- but I'm also slightly surprised to find that I think I might like it much better than being, myself, In Charge.

However, I think Strange Brand does miss the boat on a few key elements. Maybe it's just because I don't like it when I don't know who's in charge, having been burned far too many times in my last two jobs on things I thought I was doing only to find out I just wasted two weeks (or months) of my life working on something that someone else takes away, or has handed to them. Not because I was doing a poor job, or at least I've never been given that explanation. Just because lines of authority and/or communication have never been clarified and some arbitrary decision gets made at some level where they may not even have known I'd already done the legwork, or some "manager" decides an effort needs a "team" but the personalities and politics of that team mean someone else is going to make all of the decisions ... unless I wanted to choose that battle, which of course I never (well, hardly ever) did.

So that's a long digression to say that I may still be reacting to those experiences as opposed to the reality of the situation here, which I'm still sussing out after just two months, anyway. But, to the extent that it seems vestigially true here, I'll sum up my difference of opinion with the author of the linked piece by saying that the distinction between leader and led is a false dichotomy, in at least two ways off the top of my head:

(1) Any successful organization has a division of labor. If the putative leader of the overall thing does not defer to the, for example, technical leadership of the legal guy, or the financial guy, or the supply guy, when the questions at hand are in their areas of expertise, the putative leader will be very sorry when he's in court, out of business, or doesn't have any paper for the copy machine. So, the mixed-bag-o-leaders the author holds out as a unique solution isn't, very.

(2) I also don't buy this description, at all:
There are a lot of talented people who need to be supervised, and there are a lot of people who get a thrill out of micromanaging.
Supervision isn't the same thing as management, and management isn't the same thing as micromanaging. At. All.

At the first project, we had three 'bosses'. The first one was a nuclear-strike manager. Very hands-off until she felt like making command, and I do mean command, decisions. That was the first time I ever had stuff yanked out from under me to the total disregard of whatever I may (or, toward the end, may not) have put into the work already. We actually formed a little support group to go out for coffee and whatever to boost ourselves back up after some of her blitzkrieg 'management' incidents.

The second was laissez-faire to the point of a truly invisible hand. We splintered away from supporting each other until we moved offices and had a nice little suite to compare notes more easily, and although it was much kinder and gentler I will say the work surely suffered through the total absence of management.

The third (after a 3 or 4 month interregnum vacillating between micromanagement and no management) was the classic micromanager nightmare: Totally did not trust anyone to be able to do any aspect of their jobs, despite the fact that we had been doing ours for 5-7 years and she had been doing hers for 20 minutes. I don't want to dwell on her because she was such a terrible, terrible boss.

Nor will I get into the bosses at the second project, since there was actual malice and deliberate damage inflicted there, which is a problem of an entirely different order.

But I think these few examples trivially demonstrate that his dichotomy is not a useful one. Yes, there are a few people who like to dictate, command, and control. They don't make good bosses and they make terrible managers. There are also people who like to be strictly organized by others and only accountable within the scope of whether or not they followed orders. They can only be classified as high-maintenance drones, who make pretty lousy employees in my experience.

Normal Earth People like flexibility in how we do our jobs. Whatever our own level of work, we like peers to consult when we have functional or tactical questions, higher-level folks to consult when we have operational or strategic questions, lower-level folks to help us get things done. Sometimes we like to make decisions, sometimes we like to build consensus, and sometimes we like someone else to put their neck(s) out. We like to know when it's our call and when it's not, even if we don't always like the division of decision-making. Personally, I like to know who's accountable for task X, so that if it's me I'll sweat the details but if it's not I'll save my sweat for something else. I love sharing credit with folks who've shared the work, or even subordinates who haven't done much but could benefit from the confidence or status boost. Just don't ask me to do the work for someone who won't acknowledge my contribution.


Jah rule

An intriguing profile on the WSJ's free site:

He was outraged when a liberal white radio personality called Condi Rice an "Aunt Jemima" for embracing Republicanism, and even angrier when top black Democrats stood silent. He founded ABE--American Black Elephants--a group that so far has 10 members. At a recent L.A. County Republican Party meeting, Mr. Hayes erupted into "God Bless America" after watching slides from a soldier who'd just returned from Iraq. Less emotive Republicans, though startled, joined right in.

A Rastafarian Republican who tells urban layabouts to stop blaming racism for blacks killing blacks with guns and drugs? That's a California miracle.


Priming the pump

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

I just don't get this question. What's the significance of being in the fire? Should you pick a book you love, or hate? Or just one that would be likely to have been pitched onto the burning pile? Seriously, I get no handle here at all. So, I pick Lad, A Dog, for no reason at all.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yeah, this one is kind of creepy, too. A crush. I don't think so.

The last book you bought is:

Well, the most recent books coming into the house include Life with Jeeves, a collection of PG Wodehouse; The Pump House Gang, by Tom Wolfe; The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart; and Vamps and Tramps, Camille Paglia's next-to-latest. All of those, however, I picked up at the surplus shed, i.e. dump.

The last book you read:

The last book I completed was a book-on-tape, Year of Wonders. I don't remember the author, but it was really gripping. Death, plague, and so forth. It was all pretty awful but so well written and read that I couldn't stop listening to it. In retrospect, I do wish I had -- I don't need that junk in my head.

What are you currently reading?

Two books, plus the four aforementioned, but really nothing. A stack of Wall Street Journals. WSJ crossword puzzles.

I really need to get more sleep on a more regular basis.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.

Oh, I don't know. Some big fat ones, I suppose -- history. The Bible. Maybe that one on How the Scots invented the modern world (could be some good tips in there). Some kind of mechanical/agricultural how-to guide. A hollowed-out book with a firearm and some ammo inside instead, heh heh. And something very, very cheerful -- deep thoughts but cheerful - PG Wodehouse springs to mind.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

No one.