Friday, January 30, 2009

The Plan...Meets Reality

I was really looking forward to today. I went to bed knowing that my boss, Mike, and the guy who sits next to me, Pete, would be in Wichita all day in meetings. Mike and Pete are both generally on the phone continuously (and loudly), so I was pleased to have a peaceful, quiet, laid-back Friday. And my other co-worker, Shrene, always works from home on Fridays. So I would be the only one from my group in the office today.

I only had about two hours of work that I needed to take care of, which would leave me plenty of time to attend to more Me-centric activities. I was envisioning a leisurely stroll through the internet, reading all my favorite sites without the unpleasant interruption of work. I thought I might head up to Lamar's and get a donut or three for breakfast. A long lunch at the local sandwich shop sounded like a viable option. And to wrap it all up, I figured I would duck out of the office early and catch a movie.

So I was in an unusually chipper mood driving in to work this morning. It wasn't bone-chillingly, mind-numbingly cold and the forecast called for a partly sunny and relatively warm, 45-degree January day. And I was wearing my t-shirt with the Big Wheel graphic.

I pulled into my common law parking spot at the back of the lot and began my trek into the building. As per my daily ritual, I systematically checked over the cars in the lot, identifying which of the other folks in my office had already arrived. Ross? Check. Rob? Check. Keith? Check. Mike? "Wait," I thought. "Why is Mike's car here? Well, they said they were going to meet here early this morning and then head out. They must have taken Pete's car." And Pete usually parks on the other side of the building.

I entered the lobby of my building and headed for the stairs. As I walked past the elevator, I glanced out the doors on the opposite side of the lobby to see if any co-workers had parked over there. And there was Pete's car. "Hmmm...maybe they're just getting a late start. So much for a 100% peaceful and quiet day," I thought. "But what are you going to do?"

I trudged upstairs and entered the office. I exchanged hellos with Pete and then he said,

"We decided to stay here today."

"Seriously?" I said.

"Yeah, we thought we'd save the six hours of driving for an hour and a half meeting and just have a conference call."

"Ah, man. I was looking forward to a peaceful, quiet day," I said with a grin.

They both chuckled as I sat down.

"Well," I said, "I guess I'll just bow out early today, then."

Then Mike chimed in.

"I've got some bad news; we need to do month-end stuff today. We'll need to have an estimate done before the end of the day."

My chipper mood spontaneously combusted. So did visions of donuts and movie screens.

Because Mike is a happy-go-lucky, glass half-full guy, he laughed. Because I have to get information from him and Shrene and a person in our Minneapolis headquarters before I can begin on my portion of the estimate, I fumed. And vigorously attempted to seal off any expletives from leaking out of my mouth.

"Well, now I'm pissed off."

They both chuckled again and got back to work.

I sat down and recalled an interesting email conversation in which some of us debated what went into making a person happy. What percentage of your happiness is derived from your genetics, your circumstances and your choice? I enthusiastically argued that your personal choice dictates the majority of your happiness. And now I have a prime opportunity to prove my hypothesis.

I also recalled an old joke:

Wanna know how to make God laugh?
Tell Him your plans.

Okay, then; laugh it up, buddy. I'll try to, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Thoughts

  • First of all, I'm glad he survived. Just the other day, I heard about a high school in Ashburn, GA that held its first integrated prom in 2007. While there has been incredible and sweeping change in this country, there are still pockets of folks who are sheltered from progress. And sanity.

  • It appeared to me that Obama knew the oath of office better than Chief Justice Roberts. One of the things I like about Obama is that he seems to be calm at all times. He didn't get fidgety during the flub of the oath, which I find to be very impressive. I can't imagine the kind of nerves one must have when being sworn in as the most powerful human being on the planet.

  • Did you see the cheap little plastic chairs that Malia and Sasha had to sit in? Everyone else in the inner circle appeared to have plush, royalty-style chairs, but they got stuck with bingo parlor seats.

  • These are my favorite snippets from the speech:
    "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."
    I like this because it points out that we, as a nation, loved riding the high tides but turned a blind eye toward the possible failings of our system. Now we, as a nation, are paying the consequences and are responsible for fixing our mistakes.
    "On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."
    I realize every politician says this, but I'm going to choose to believe it this time.
    "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."
    This sort of common sense approach is refreshing and has been sorely lacking. While I would prefer that the government be directly involved in my life on a minimal basis, I don't really care if they make a program for everything - so long as it works, works well and works efficiently.
      "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
      I appreciate the lack of arrogance and the willingness to work with those who might be our enemies, so long as they are willing to cooperate.
      "For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies."
      People are quick to blame the government for our woes. Which might be fine when the government is responsible. But the people decide who is in government and, more importantly, the people do the heavy lifting of bringing about positive change. The thing I like most about Obama is that he seems to inspire people to serve and do their part in making this country a place to be proud of. He is aware that the responsiblity lies on our collective shoulders, but he is willing to be the example for us to follow.

    • Unfortunately, the most enduring image of the inauguration won't be the multitudes gathered on the Mall, the crying and hopeful faces in the crowd or the stoic presence or our new president. No, the enduring image in my mind will be hats. These hats:

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Brain Storm

    There is a cloud of thoughts expanding and contracting in my head. Ideas are gliding and floating around. Practical ideas and abstract ideas and creative ideas are bumping into and melding with and separating from each other. When I start to work on something, the particles slow down and freeze in focused concentration. When I am finished, they are free to scatter and bounce and collect like dew drops in a mist of thought. Tiny lightning bolts snap and crackle in the gaps, new and fleeting ideas quickly making their presence known. Low rumbles of thunder roll and echo and settle into solid projects and thoughts...