high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting back to basics

Heading up to Michigan State tomorrow to see Eric and Rakhi.  We're planning to do some wilderness camping over the weekend, by which I mean setting up a tent in Rakhi's backyard.  Yes, just like you used to do as kids.  Jealous?  Actually, we did look at some campsites in the general vicinity, but were unable to find a spot at any, so the next best option is a more localized area of woods.  What's that?  How are we going to build the traditional campfire if it's not a true campsite?  Silly reader.  Haven't you ever heard of a dumpster fire?  Sure, you have to sort of climb up on the sides to reach in and toast your marshmallows, but otherwise the experience is no different.  You've got the stars overhead, you've got raccoons scampering about (jumping out of the dumpster that's just caught on fire), and that feeling of pure bliss that can only come from communing with Nature.  You know, Nature?  Na-too-ray?  The foreign exchange student next door?

About a year ago I purchased a tent at Aldi in anticipation of just this sort of occasion.  I'd been camping many times before, but mostly when I was younger with my family, or in college as part of an organized trip where all equipment was provided, so I didn't have a tent of my own.  When I saw the tent at Aldi I thought to myself "I like camping, and at some point I know that I'll go camping with friends, so it would be a good idea to purchase this tent now and have it for when I eventually need it."  The Aldi tent was especially appealing in that, like everything else at Aldi, it was at a bargain price.  The cost-benefit analysis was simple: Even if the tent was used sparingly, it would be totally worth it.  The only way it wouldn't be worth it is if it basically fell apart immediately.  Given this possibility, I harnessed the power of the internet and did a little research prior to actually making the purchase.  Seeing no negative comments, I bought the tent.  It's a wonderful thing, stimulating the economy!

With the arrival of an appropriate time to use the tent, I got it out to set it up in the back yard.  Obviously you don't want to be setting up your tent for the first time when you're already out in the wilderness, or even worse, standing in the back alley next to the burning dumpster.  So I got out the tent and began assembling.  Things were going along splendidly until suddenly one of the pole sections snapped.  Argh.  The poles were clearly not made of the strongest material (perhaps compressed dust?), but c'mon, the first time?!  Fortunately, the pole section snapped right near the top where it connects to the preceding pole section.  Upon Nate's excellent advice, I cut off the offending section and was able to slide the remaining pole section up into the preceding section, resulting in an only slightly shorter pole overall.  Experiencing no other setbacks, I had the simple dome frame up in no time!  There's something extremely gratifying about a quick, well-executed tent setup.  It's sort of like a badge of honor, an important manly competency, like being able to start a fire or parallel park.  I think a few more hairs sprouted on my chest after I had admired my work for a few moments and was "breaking camp."

The weekend should be nice because we're at a point in the quarter right now where midterms have passed and end-of-term projects are not yet coming due, so there won't be any reading or homework to worry about.  In class yesterday we were talking about CitiStat, the performance management system for city government first implemented in Baltimore and modeled on the NYPD's CompStat system.  If you're not familiar with CitiStat, and don't want to click on the convenient link I've provided, just know that it is a system where the various department heads in the city government provide regular updates to the mayor and his team about the activity of their respective departments.  But it's not just about reporting activity, it's about demonstrating progress and results.  City employees are truly held accountable for their work, so they'd better come prepared to the CitiStat sessions and they better have been getting some shit done since their last CitiStat session.  Although it will sound gushy, I'll say that it's inspiring to see people engaged in their work.  Must be the legitimate HR professional that's buried deep inside of me.  One thing you learn in organizations, although people don't often apply it, is that employees like being held accountable, for the most part.  It gives a sense of responsibility, a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment.  Having watched some videos of CitiStat in class, I would think that it must feel really good to a department head if they come out of their CitiStat session knowing that they've demonstrated results and been able to answer the questions posed.  All of this is getting around to a short anecdote about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underwear.

Like many other youngsters, I had several pairs of TMNT underwear (as well as Peanuts and Smurfs underwear).  Also like many other youngsters, I enjoyed playing outside with friends.  Well, one day some neighborhood friends came knocking, either Nate or Mom answered the door, and they announced that some friends had come to play, causing me to dash wildly from my room and burst out the door, rearing to go.  The thing is, in my enthusiasm I had failed to notice that I wasn't wearing any pants.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for the ladies! heh heh heh.....yow!) I was wearing my TMNT underwear, and it was just about getting to that point in life when you should really not wear your TMNT underwear anymore.  I was 13 at the time.  That is a joke.  I was much younger, but I ran with an older crowd, having earned the respect of the older guys through brawling and heavy drinking.  That is also a joke.  What is not a joke is that all the other guys had stopped wearing their TMNT underwear, so I perhaps looked a bit silly.

The point is this: Watching CitiStat yesterday, I thought "This kind of thing would get me excited about going to work!"  Genuinely excited.  And how do I gauge excitement?  Well, thinking back on my childhood memory I realized that the highest point on my personal scale of excitement is when something gets me so excited that I burst out the door with such enthusiasm that I don't even notice I'm not wearing pants.  That's the standard by which all else is judged.  A CitiStat environment at work might actually get a pretty good rating on the scale, although it still wouldn't be close to the summit. Maybe someday I'll get there.  There's always hope.  Hope of showing up at work wearing nothing but underwear featuring cartoon characters.  Sexual harassment allegations be damned.

Obviously Krang's android body is excited about going to work.

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