Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Heaven Help Us

"So your new boss is arriving this week?"


"And you've been here three and a half months?"


"And your other colleague has been here two and a half months?"

"That's right."

"So you'll have to use your seniority to lead them."

"I didn't say it was a perfect system."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

X Marks the Spot

A recent decision to cancel a planned speaker has left me peculiarly upset. I'm not sure why this particular cancellation is really getting to me; usually I can rebound pretty quickly from these things, but I can't shake this one. Each time I think about it I feel livid and bitter at the missed opportunity cost. Not since I was on steroids was I this consistently angry for more than a 24 hour period.*

Let me explain that I am totally down with security precautions. Totally down. Big fan of the whole 'life' thing. Not so keen on being kidnapped. Looking forward to growing old with my knitting and those two cats and a fern which I'm sure I'll be acquiring at some not too distant future point. If RSO tells me I'm standing on an 'X', believe me that I am going to scramble to get off of it.

But I want to keep in mind, too, that my job here is to move America off the big 'X' it is standing on. It's no good patting ourselves on the back for dodging individual cars if it still leaves us slap in the middle of the highway. To stretch the metaphor, we can't get ourselves out of the oncoming traffic if we're not strategic about our security precautions and the direction they take us. I guess this cancellation was the first time I really felt like I'd been told "We'd like you to quickly guide America across I-10 -- you'll just need to wear this suit of rusty armor for your protection. Don't worry; we welded the seams shut to lessen the chance of shrapnel penetration."

To paraphrase Ice-T: you shouldn't get mad at everything, just really mad at the right things. I'm pretty mad. I hope it's not misplaced.

*Crikey, has it been five years already? I should throw myself a party.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Libidinous Loadshedding Droids

My neighbors have recently installed a new generator to help cope with the increased loadshedding.* Understandable. I also have a generator; it is a thing of beauty. Behold:

Doesn't it look friendly? Couldn't you picture it chatting with R2-D2? Note especially the green cover. That not only improves the aesthetic, but also acts as a sound dampener. Say it with me: 'sound dampener'.

I have not seen my neighbors' new generator, but evidence suggests that it might be lacking a cover, green or otherwise. In fact, they seem to have sheathed it in a special sound enhancer. When the power goes out, the noise coming from the other side of the wall could only be described as two aged freight trains engaged in an illicit bout of lovemaking atop a bed of castanets. It's so loud, it drowns out even the guards' attempts at hand gesture communication.

I hesitate to bring this to the attention of my neighbors. For one, I find it hard to believe that they haven't noticed themselves. For two, I can't actually walk outside of my yard to go knock on their front door. Not without a whole host of armed guards. Though maybe that kind of entourage would only assist the conversation.

*Newspeak for 'rolling blackouts'

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Dating in 1984

Seeing tensions rise over the past week has been a strange experience -- strange in that you have to carry on with your everyday job like nothing is happening, though secretly you're performing a mental inventory of the items in your 'go bag'. "So, uh, did you still want to partner with us on this grant? I mean, of course, we assume you do, just, you know, just checking." Twist the phone cord around your finger while watching with a combination of horror and bemusement as the proverbial volley goes back and forth overhead. "Hey, really sorry I couldn't make that meeting. Oh, just a few protestors outside, you know how it is. Nice weather, yeah?"

Honestly, George Orwell couldn't have scripted a better media reaction. I'm not saying the U.S. is popular here, but that was a pretty quick press slide to the full-on enemy role (sometimes with musical accompaniment!). There were some thoughtful pieces, though. One of my favorites described the eventual bilateral rapprochement as less of a kiss-and-make-up than "an awkward one-armed hug." Our diplomatic relationship does seem to swing between a bromance and an ill-conceived prom date. Good thing I'm just working on that people-to-people ties thing.