My boss is on leave. I have a number of tasks to complete. Two of these involve providing instructions about using software to people in the office. The office has installed a video capture/presentation program on my computer to help with exactly this sort of thing. I am inexpert in its use, alas, but the end products genuinely seem to help people understand how to do the stuff they’re being asked to do. One of these tasks is Urgent and Important and potentially complicated; the other is neither, in comparison, but it has fewer moving parts.
I decided to spend a few minutes on the one with fewer moving parts this afternoon – you know, because it would be easier and help me do the other one (Urgent and Important) faster and better. Four hours later, I had a poorly edited video which I will have to totally redo before it will be of much use to anyone.
The Business Management Institute at Muppet Labs ™ is quoting reliable sources as saying that saving work frequently on a computer may prevent wasted effort. They are also reporting that doing the most important work first is more likely to result in faster completion of important work.
In unrelated news, I just spent the last 90 minutes playing Solitaire (with an actual deck of cards) over and over again.
Mouse is going to summer camp in Canada during the first week of July. Since she has never traveled overseas before, she does not have a passport. As a minor child, she has to appear in person at a Passport Agency or a Passport Acceptance Facility along with one or both parents to be issued a passport. Alexandria City schools being in session until the end of next week (a week before her camp starts), I wanted to take her to one of the Passport Acceptance Facilities in our area to apply outside of school hours. These are post offices and libraries which see applicants in person, collect the necessary forms and fees, and forward them to the State Department for adjudication and issuance of passports.
Not complaining! I have nothing but love for passports, libraries, post offices, or the good people who sign my pay checks. Everyone is doing the best they can to meet increased demand for passports with limited resources. Everyone I have encountered so far in the effort to get my child a passport has been polite and given me accurate information. Unfortunately, it’s been hard to do so far. It’s summer, so more people are trying to travel abroad, and I didn’t plan ahead. I’ve gone to the library three times for Passport Acceptance hours; twice we came midway through the posted hours and were told the all the times for passport service that day were already full; Sunday we got there 20 minutes before opening and, after waiting in the line pictured above, learned that we could be seen three hours later if we stayed in line. When I called one of the local post offices that make appointments for passport services, I was offered an appointment in the third week of July. The others operated in a walk-in basis similar to the library. If I call the National Passport Information Center on Friday, I’ll be allowed to make an appointment at the Washington Passport Agency; that’s contingent on showing proof that our travel is scheduled to occur within the next two weeks (or four weeks if you also have to get a foreign visa).
Not complaining! But it occurred to me that maybe Social Security field offices should become Passport Acceptance Facilities. They’re set up to offer a mix of walk-in and scheduled appointments, much like Passport Agencies and U.S. consular sections overseas, and they have waiting areas and ticketing systems. Plus they are already set up to handle people’s original documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, and so on). Just a thought. Maybe this can be my capstone project for an Executive Potential Program, should I ever rally to apply for one. I’ll put that on my to-do list, right after getting our passports.
Last week I took a course at Graduate School USA, the venerable training institution formerly known as the USDA Graduate School. I learned a lot about the subject matter of the three-day course (“Non-Defense Working Capital Funds,” or the financial management basics of administering USG activities that are supposed to run off of earned revenue instead of base budgets). I liked the instructor. I liked the location. But I really did not like the text-bound materials or the relative lack of computer access compared to Management Concepts. I also missed the free coffee, danish, and soft drinks provided by same. C’mon, Grad School USA, up your game.
I went to a funeral Monday. It was the first funeral I have ever been to for someone who committed suicide and for someone of age to be my son. I hope it is the last such funeral I ever have to attend. With the recent exception of a beloved cousin and contemporary, all of my dead have exited this life in an orderly manner, having given notice in the form of terminal illness and/or old age. It begins to terrify me that I haven’t lost anyone closer or more out of turn – with every day the odds increase that my luck will run out.
But this is not my main thought. The thing that struck me most during the service was the compassion of the pastor’s sermon and the sympathy for the suffering of the deceased that seemed to prevail among the mourners. The religious tradition I grew up in was not forgiving of suicide. Today, the Church takes a far more nuanced look at the roots of suicidal intent, to a degree that similar sentiments could easily have been spoken at a Catholic funeral. What struck me is the difficulty of striking a balance between recognizing and attempting to ease another human being’s psychic pain on one hand and appearing to accept impaired life function or suicide as natural potential consequences of that pain on the other. Maybe I wouldn’t fixate on this on this balance if I felt that life was its own best argument against suicide? I wonder.
I was overloading on work and then I visited a bunch of national parks in Utah (highly recommend) and then I came home. I know that the experience of all that beauty was restorative, but I have been playing a lot of solitaire and oversleeping since my return. And falling asleep in front of the computer.
But a friend’s son killed himself Tuesday. How horrible! I am so terribly sorry for my friend and his son’s mother.Whatever ennui or parental frustration I’m feeling as I wait for my nest to empty, it’s a blessing compared to the finality of losing a child.
Not that I begrudge anyone the opportunity to advance, but that’s not why I need to hire someone. I need to hire someone because I have an unmet need in my organization. Candidates who demonstrate awareness of that fact and pitch themselves accordingly warm the cockles of my bureaucratic heart.
My pet peeve as a federal hiring manager is when I can’t figure out from a narrative descriptions of position duties what someone actually did at a job or how they demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and abilities* I’m looking for. Five thousand characters gives you enough space to simply say what the job was and how you did it before you start plugging in all the key words and phrases from the job announcement text to satisfy the Hiring Manager Algorithm.
For federal employees, I recommend keeping a human-language version of your resume on hand. It will give you something to share when a prospective boss or mentor wants to see your CV. It also helps in customizing your USAJOBS resume(s) when you’re applying for positions.**
*Yeah sure, they say they got rid of KSAs on federal job applications. What they really did was eliminate the KSA essay you had to include along with your resume on each job application. So instead of having a resume you could use for multiple job applications …
**Now you have to weave the KSA language from the job announcement into the narrative for “position duties” for each job on your resume. In other words, you have to customize a resume for each and every job application. Thanks, OPM!