Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Laugh and Cry

Laugh because it's funny. Cry because it's true.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is It Selfish to Want to Be an FSO?

I'm normally above-average in the optimism department. Some people have the brain chemistry to make them a Debbie Downer, but I am not one of those people (even when things suck). However, I've found that over the last couple of years, I have begun to be increasingly pessimistic about the future. Especially when it comes to the state of the US economy.

There are a lot of reasons for this, most of them having to do with my specialization in the structured finance field, and watching friends and colleagues see their careers and livelihoods implode over the last three years. So maybe my pessimism is a form of post-traumatic stress, but it's hard to feel confident about the economy. You know it's not a good sign when economists from opposite spectra of analysis start getting gloomy.

Which brings me to the topic of my post. I am ashamed to admit this, but my desire for joining the Foreign Service has a new basis - some financial/career stability. I know that's not a guarantee, especially if things really went to heck in a hand basket. Joining the Foreign Service is not a guarantee of lifelong employment. There's the issue of getting tenure; not to mention the question of whether this career move is the right thing for my family. I think it is, but I'm not sure you could ever know until you're actually doing it.

Compared to what's going on in the banking, finance and legal industries, working for State certainly seems a lot more stable. Obviously, career/financial security is not the only reason. But reading the WSJ and FT is turning into torture. It would be great if I enjoyed reading absolutely miserable stats all day, but frankly, I like rainbows and sprinkles occasionally. And I can't help feeling selfish for wanting to be a public employee at the same time that the global financial situation seems to be gearing for another round of crashing. I'm starting to get really itchy to get an offer and into an A-100 before another Lehman incident occurs and the government has no choice but to close its doors for the foreseeable future.

As of today on the register, I am steady at 38 out of 85.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poetry Interlude

On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses
your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder at the
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy;

And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons that
pass over your fields.

And you would watch with serenity through the
winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

It is the bitter potion by which the physician within
you heals your sick self.

Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy
in silence and tranquillity:

For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by
the tender hand of the Unseen,

And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has
been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has
moistened with His own sacred tears.

Khalil Gibran

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Being a Father

1,403 days ago I became a father. I can honestly say that I feel like I'm the one who got lucky on this deal. Everyday I wake up to my oldest's footsteps clomping down the hall and I think to myself, "Dear God, it's 6 am, please go back to sleep!" After a shower and a coffee, though, I realize how blessed I am. Caetlin and Phoebe, thank you for being my daughters. Here's one of my favorite pictures of the girls showing that, even at the grand ages of 3.5 and 1.5, they know I'm not cool enough.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Being on the Register

So last week I decided to check where I was on the register. The ever helpful Ms. Tamale Walton told me I was #35 out of 85 fellow Econ FSO-wannabes. A month ago I was #29, a month before that I was #39, so I seem to be staying relatively put. So far, I think I have a good shot at getting "the call" once I take myself off of DNC later this year. Both the June A-100 and August A-100 dipped into scores lower than mine. Barely much lower, but lower all the same. That should reassure me, but when I read the A-100 boards clamoring about how the registers are getting longer and longer and people are getting higher and higher scores, I start to worry that this whole decision to go DNC was not the brightest. I especially feel that way when I have friends and co-bloggers getting into the June and August classes.

Please note, unlike some of the conspiracy theorists out there, I don't think State is getting easier with its Oral Assessment grading policy. I think the economy is just driving a lot of people who are exceedingly well-qualified into taking the FSOT, which is resulting in the profusion of higher scores the last year or so. I just pray that I can keep my place in the 30's long enough. I am really scared of the register ballooning even more over the next 4-5 months; or, even worse, a hiring freeze hitting State at the end of the year. I thought things would be easier once I was on the register, but it's not. I can't imagine how terrible it is to go through this process only to fade off the register. I now have even more mad respect for the people who decide to do this more than once.

My plan is to try and get into the first A-100 class of next year. I don't believe next year's budget has been finalized yet so it's hard to prognosticate, but hopefully they will have a January 2011 A-100; and hopefully I'll be in it. In the interim, I'm going to start burnishing my really rusty Japanese in order to take the language exam to boost my score.

I really hate the waiting and watching. October-ish can't get here soon enough.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Love the Smell of Bureaucracy in the Morning

From Merriam-Webster Online:

Pronunciation: \by-ˈrä-krə-sē, byə-, byər-ˈä-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural bu·reau·cra·cies
Etymology: French bureaucratie, from bureau + -cratie -cracy
Date: 1818

1 a : a body of nonelective government officials b : an administrative policy-making group
2 : government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority
3 : a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation

Now check this video out (I think you will agree that definition #3 is clearly in action):

My friend, who made this video, was the former president of this HOA board (he was voted out after several years as a benevolent dictator). If you can get through this video without cringing, I salute you. Just shows you that you don't need that many people to make a bureaucracy. I'll update to add this video to my webpage once my friend uploads it to YouTube.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Diplomatic Cables Leaked?

Story is here. Dead Men Working have already blogged about this here.

One part of me is incredibly outraged that any American citizen would do this - and double enraged that a government employee would violate his ethical duties and commit such a crime. I truly, truly hope that this information is incorrect and just an idiot boasting. If he did steal the cables, then I pray he hasn't leaked them. I can not begin to imagine the damage this could do not just to the interests of the United States, but to the careers, livelihoods and even safety of diplomatic and military personnel overseas. Just sickening.

The other part of me, and I'm not proud, would be really interested in reading current, first-hand work product of our diplomats.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Swear I'm Not a Shill

Many, many, many years ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to write music reviews for an indie music magazine started up by a friend of a friend. I was hardly published but I did get to see and meet a lot of bands and go to a lot of great shows. My time with the magazine was short-lived since I never felt a particular need to differentiate the world into "cool" and "not cool" music, I just knew what I liked and was happy to try and share with as many people as possible. The editor was not like me, and he had a very definite vision regarding what music/bands he'd promote. He pretty much insisted that bands signed with major commercial labels couldn't make good music. After a particular vicious argument over the nature of indie cred vs. commercialism with the editor, I went on my way (I was not the beret wearer in that argument, but I admit I wore a lot of plaid in the early nineties). There were no hard feelings, and I'm still in touch with the editor (and he's mellowed like we all have - or should I say we've all become far less self-important).

It's been nice to see the magazine grow and develop to the point you can find it in any Borders or Barnes and Noble. And probably as a result of that early experience, I love glossies. I appreciate nice layouts, the photography, and well-structured articles. Which is why I've been a real fan of a new travel magazine called Afar. They have some really interesting layouts - including a special photo feature that compares something mundane in different countries. Last month it was residential housing, this month it was school lunches. It's really neat.

And they have some really great articles ranging from local cuisine culture to a "spin the globe" feature that randomly sends a writer to some area of the world. As an armchair world traveller, it's nice to read a travel magazine that goes into more than just recommending hotels and restaurants. I think all my fellow FSOwannabe's would enjoy it. The only down side is it makes me want to join the FS all the more.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Toy

My birthday came and went recently, and in order to quell that queasy feeling of getting older and the time left on this earth slipping through my fingertips, I splurged on a ridiculous toy that I have to share.

As you might notice from my musical interludes, I love me some music. There are few experiences better than finding a new band or hearing the first few notes of a new song that tickle your brain in just the right way.

So I bought a Sonos. For those of you unfamiliar, it's a music system that networks with your music library and can wirelessly stream whatever music you're in the mood for (including internet radio, pandora, sirius, lastfm, rhapsody, etc.) to your stereo or special zone players. I love it. You can create separate musical zones and play different music simultaneously - need classical in the kitchen while you cook while your friends jam to something else in the media room? It can do it.

I figure this is my last big electronic purchase for the next five years, by which time I imagine digitized, wireless media storage will be standard features for TVs and stereos.

UPDATE: Bumped because I'm terrible with correcting my publish dates.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Am I a Snob?

A friend of mine sent this article to me about a man who has visited almost every country on earth. There are only three left for him to visit: Cuba, Libya and Somalia. Initially, my response to the opening lead was to be quite impressed, but as I read through the article I became a bit disturbed by this guy.

I guess I'm not sure what the point of his taking the time and money to travel the world if he, on average, only spends a couple of days in each country, never eats the local cuisine, and frankly doesn't seem to be too into really experiencing the people or places he's going. After reading the article, I feel like he's the kind of traveler I can't stand - just someone passing through to get the passport stamp, treating each country as another push-pin in his personal map of the world.

UPDATE: Bumped to fix link. Sorry!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Back from the Banks!

So very sorry for completely disappearing. It seems I'm not the only one with a bit of blog fatigue, as some of my favorite blogs are either taking a break or considering taking a break. Sadly, given my posting frequency, I have far less of a reason to be blogtigued.

Since I've been AWOL for a bit, I thought I'd share some pics of my daughters. As you can see from the pictures, the FSOWannabe girls had a great time at the OBX.

This is Phoebe. The youngest member of the tribe. Likes: playing, eating, playing, eating, and playing and eating. And playing in the bathtub...while eating. Dislikes: full diapers and not getting her way (she experiences the latter quite frequently).

This is Caetlin, the eldest. She's a fan of running from waves, but not too fast.