Now we are two … but not as clever as ever

Hello Kitty Birthday cakeImage by c.r.avery via Flickr


Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Happy birthday to me …
…. Now we are twooo!

Let’s see if Diplopundit can crib this from A.A. Milne’s Christopher Robbin’s birthday poem …

And now I am Two, I’m as clever as ever. So I think I’ll be two now forever and ever.  

Except that at two, he was “nearly new” and he did not really get “clever as ever” until he was six. Oh, yes! We know we have a long way to go!  Anyway, I’ve decided that today will be my annual mental health day.  I think I’ll go to a spa and have some cold cucumbers put on my perfectly baggy eyes (I don’t know yet what to order for my brain 🙂  
My birthday wish? — Well, for the last two years, this has been a one-person operation. Things have become a tad much to cover for one person.  My wish list includes someone to follow the FS side on the Hill (a great learning experience), one to track the inspectors and accountability offices/reports from GAO, SIGAR, SIGIR, IGs (this one will make you clever, trust me) and yet another to cover the news around the worldwide available galaxy (including the funnies) that interest our readers. 

Skills in  palmistry (including palm writing), precognition, juggling  and other esoteric arts would be welcomed as long as they do not interfere with your being a news junkie. If you want to cover just  specific topics like EFM issues, leadership/management, logistics, etc. etc. let me know; I’m open to ideas. 

Unfortunately, there is no money in this. Look — I’m still sitting on dust!  But just between us — you will be read from Foggy Bottom and thereabouts of Pennsylvania Avenue, and around the beltway and beyond. Email me offline if you are interested either as an occasional noodle maker or as a regular writer.

Now, the spa is waiting — seeya!


We touch people’s lives, but what happens when we screw up?

In response to my post about Ms. DS-160 and the um — “unforeseen” challenges in the rollout of DS-160, a reader quoted former Consular Bureau top honcho, Maura Harty who used to say “We touch people’s lives.”  Reader has some added words of spicy wisdom: “Yeah, well, we touch a LOT of people’s lives, and when we screw up, we screw up big.” 

This is the same bureau that in 2005 did a study predicting future nonimmigrant visa workload for major countries.  The GAO in July 2007 noted that a study done by the Department in 2005 predicting future NIV workload in major countries was radically off the mark for Brazil. That study predicted a workload for Brazil in the year 2014 that already was met in 2007. Just seven years off the mark! And you wonder why there were officers who did 200 interviews a day?  
And just because you can roll out Ms. DS-160 all at the same time in China and a couple dozen countries, must you?  Given the consequences under Murphy’s law? And given that the applicants are paying customers? I wonder if this is a case of somebodies in a hurry to pick up cookie points…um, not unheard of. I can tell you that March is a truly horrible month for project roll-outs.  Not only is 1040 hanging over your head screaming “do me, do me next!”, you also get your EER tapping impatiently outside your ears (eers aka: performance evaluation).       
It is by no accident that our unnamed blog friend/reader/lurker also pointed us to John Cook’s piece in Lifehacker about how “Work Expands to the Time Allowed”Math professor, programmer, and blogger John Cook discusses how work expands to fill the time allowed for it.
Below is an excerpt from that post for our good friends at the Consular Bureau and (fill in your choice of expanding bureau) who may/may not find this interesting:

The full title of the first chapter of the book is “Parkinson’s Law, or The Rising Pyramid.” This chapter explains how work expands to fill the available resources within a bureaucracy and why bureaucracies grow exponentially at a compounding rate of around 5% per year. The subtitle addresses the mechanism for this growth, bureaucrats creating a pyramid of subordinates. Parkinson derives his law from “two almost axiomatic statements”:

  1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
  2. Officials make work for each other.
Nowadays Parkinson’s law is usually condensed to saying work expands to the time allowed. It is applied to individuals as well as a burgeoning bureaucracies. Parkinson discusses this interpretation in his opening paragraph but then limits his attention to organizations.
The total effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.
See John D. Cook’s blog here.
Thank you Diplopundit friend/reader/lurker for John Cook. His blog is a wonderful find. One of my favorite posts is his “Just in case” versus “just in time” learning. Check it out.

More Ignorance and Bliss, Please

I’ll take mine… to go, please!, is the blog of the wife of a former journalist who took his buy-out check and is entering the US Foreign Service. The “Hopeful Foreign Service Officer, and family. Waiting to be invited to DC, then, who knows where?” are leaving their our 4 bedroom 2.5 bath house in a planned community for a life of adventure living overseas. She has been following the unapproved edition of realities of Foreign Service life unfolding online; and even took the trouble to summarize the various comments posted under the original controversial material (also see I’ll take a scoop of dust to go, please…) Click here to see her summary. Below is part of what she wrote:

[G]eez, people, you’re killing me here. I’m waiting to enter this life. I need a little more ignorance and bliss. These kinds of comments aren’t exactly recruitment material.[…]

OK, folks. Don’t think I’m naive. I know what I’m getting myself into. My eyes are open.

It’s kind of like having kids. I love my kids and all the wonderful things about them. Life is richer for knowing them. I have a different view of the world due to them. I wouldn’t trade it. I also know childbirth hurts. I know what 10cm means. I read all the books and knew what to expect when I was expecting. And I chose no pain meds, three times. But when I see a friend pregnant, expecting her first child I don’t tell her about 10 cm, I don’t tell her about stitches or other gory details.
Here’s my “10 cm” staring me right in the face…sewage, feces, smells, parasites, diarreah, vomit, bombs, PTSD, exploding animals, dust storms, coma kids, damaged membranes, bugged houses, armored vehicles, overworked, underpaid, disease, evacuated, carjacked, surveillance, loneliness, isolation…Thanks people.
I can’t do anything about ignorance; I was once acquainted with it; did not like it one bit.
But I can help with bliss, I think.
Jodi H in the Dominican Republic is a clinical social worker by trade, but currently makes her living by “figuring out how to get my family fed in this crazy life called the Foreign Service.” She writes the blog, For Lack of Tacos (The Culinary Adventures of a Foreign Service Spouse). Excerpt below:
The sun was shining in my kitchen window where I look out at beautiful Caribbean flowers and hear the pool pump (yes, my husband is an Entry Level Officer and we have a pool – don’t blame us, we just showed up and there e it was) and wind chimes (always blowing with the nice sea breeze even though we are about two miles from the water). Life was good. I wasn’t rushing. I had plenty of time to make the short walk over to the boys’ school to pick them up. I was singing happy songs in my head.
I never dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom, but I wouldn’t trade all of the time I have had with my boys in the past year (we reached our one year FS anniversary this week). In DC and here in Santo Domingo, we have had free reign of millions of adventures. In our family, I am the one who has ended up knowing how to navigate our new cities. And I can’t imagine giving up the opportunity to live abroad. But, at the same time, I wonder if making tortillas is my best me. Perhaps I should be doing something more productive. Maybe I should be making more of an attempt to return to my professional life in some form.
The very recent truth is…and this is a reality that is, for some reason, difficult for me to admit…I actually really, really love my non-professional life (whatever that means). Making tortillas gives me great joy. I’m trying to remind myself to admit to the great happiness I feel with what I am doing now and not get hung up on what I believed would make me happy when we started this journey. Life is so teeming with unpredictability – especially in the Foreign Service – what an opportunity for reinvention. So, with my apparently successful bid at making a likeable tortilla, I am reminded of the need to embrace the wide-open space ahead, spoon in hand and possibly a dash of reinvention here and there. These things make me happy. My life is good. I make tortillas.
Now that’s bliss. 
So sometimes you even get a pool. But most times, there won’t be a pool. Worse, water might even be rationed 2-3 times a week.  You stop taking baths and learn to take 2 minute showers, like two minute toothbrush. But here’s the funny part — after potty training your kids and teaching them to flush, you might have to start teaching them the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rhyme. After months of trying and getting right the action that comes with that rhyme — you get to return to the US, make them unlearn that rhyme or worse, send them to the “must-flush” re-education camp. 

It doesn’t happen every day. But it happens. Sometimes,  life may sound like a great adventure in the bush, sometimes it sounds full of “10 cm” stuff. Reality is somewhere in the middle.

And like Forrest Gump says about  life as a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get. In the Foreign Service, you can “bid” and hope you get the best chocolate.  But your “best” chocolate, may not be the next person’s “best” chocolate. And your neighbor’s best, may not be yours.