Friday, November 28, 2008

Milestones and miscellania

Welcome to my 200th post. Time flies when a person is having fun. Back in February when I started blogging I wasn't sure it was a particularly good idea.

I'm still not sure, but it's definitely addictive. Not to mention the added benefit of it giving me something to do when I'm awake several hours earlier than any sane person should be.

The S.O. and I are in east Texas this week, enjoying the relative serenity of the piney hills and scenic Sabine County. I was a little surprised yesterday by how quiet it was here where the Younger Daughter lives. She's in a subdivision on the Toledo Bend reservoir, a neighborhood that is a mix of houses with year-round residents and vacation homes. I was expecting it to be relatively busy -- when we were here for Christmas there were a lot of people around, the infamous weekenders from Beaumont and Houston (you want to hear contempt in a local's voice? Ask about people from Houston). Both Christmas and New Year's were celebrated with lots and lots of fireworks and other rowdiness. But Thanksgiving was quiet.

For those who might interested in such things, the cheapest gas we saw between here and Atlanta was at the Evil Empire in Alexandria, Louisiana: $1.69.

The past week or so was an odd one. My detail and the assignment to edit that strategy document at Large Nameless Agency is winding down. The most recent draft of The Strategy went out to multiple agencies and "stakeholders" for comment on October 31. All comments were due back by November 26, so when I get back to the office I'll get to start collating them all and integrating them into the document. That's if there's anything to collate or integrate. As of Tuesday afternoon the response had been, well, a tad odd. And light.

Of the potential hundreds of responses, as of Tuesday we'd heard from maybe half a dozen entities. Two provided actual comments, but not many and nothing truly substantive. The Office of the Vice President (and yes, the e-mail did give off a faint hint of brimstone) said simply (or as simply as anything is ever written in bureaucratese) "Thanks for letting us see this." Several of the professional associations that have an interest in the topic made no comments on the document itself and instead merely reiterated their support for the work the unit is doing. Another reviewer said he felt the strategy was too ambitious and too generalized, but didn't give any specifics on what to do to bring it down into the real world of being SMART (setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).

I, of course, have been wondering if this silence constitutes another smoke signal from inside the Beltway -- with a new administration coming in, The Strategy now falls into the category of irrelevant old news. I hope not. The problems in public health the document details are real and do need to be addressed. Maybe not in the same way the Bush administration would have gone at it (talked a lot about supporting various programs while quietly cutting funding and hoping no one noticed), but nonethless addressed.

An alternate explanation for the lack of response, and the one I'm hoping applies, is we went through so much thrashing things out with passing early versions around and asking for feedback and contributions from the numerous stakeholders (for a ~50 page manuscript we have two full pages of acknowledgements done in microscopic type) that this latest version really is something everyone from the professional paranoics in Homeland Security to the people inspecting eggs over at USDA can live with. Which means it's either really comprehensive or it's totally vacuous. I've been too close to it for too long -- I can no longer tell the difference.

Third explanation, of course, is that most people are procrastinators so a ton of comments will come in at the last minute -- and I'll get to deal with those when I return to the office on Tuesday.

In any case, my association with The Strategy should end December 12. All edits will be done by then, it'll get posted to a website hosted by one of the partners involved in the document's development, and I'll be free to go back to my quiet cubicle, back to functioning primarily as an author's editor, and back to enjoying my morning walk to work. I haven't much liked being a bus commuter, nor have I enjoyed the days when I drive -- Atlanta drivers are all insane. And I've missed the people who inhabit the offices and cubicles near mine. We may not work in the same program area (writer editors are "embedded" all over Large Nameless Agency, and may never work directly with the folks whose offices surround them), but when you see the same faces every work day for over a year, you get to know and like people.

For the next couple days, though, I won't have to worry about the document or work. Instead I get to think about playing tourist and doing some small-scale shopping. I know today is National Do Not Shop day for those of us who like to talk about sustainability, but I'm interpreting that as "do not patronize big box stores/avoid the Evil Empire (aka House of Satan)/don't go to the mall." We're driving up to Nacogdoches to wander around its historic downtown (not to mention checking out its historic cemetery that dates back to around 1830) and pick up a souvenir or two. Tomorrow we're driving to Natchitoches, Louisiana, to enjoy a craft show there, tour Cane River Creole National Historical Park, and then enjoy the Christmas lights and fireworks on the riverfront once the sun goes down. There's a free evening concert, too.

I'm hoping that this year the guy who has the "get your picture taken with a gator" booth is there. We went up to Natchitoches on Christmas Eve last year and, although the atmosphere along the riverfront was festive and there were numerous vendors selling food and drink, the gator guy's booth was closed. If he is there tomorrow, we may have found the family portrait for this year's Christmas cards.


  1. Sounds like a fun time, traveling around. Relax and enjoy. Getting back in the grind will be here soon enough - then Christmas! Have a good one.

  2. Hi Nan:
    "(you want to hear contempt in a local's voice? Ask about people from Houston)."
    As you noticed, I had a brief encounter with Texans. This is something I've always wondered about: why are we so quick to link ourselves for/against one ci8ty? I'm from Michigan. In Michigan, it was ""Detroit." You could be a genius, but if you said you were from were an idiot!!

  3. That's a really cute graphic.

    I no longer do christmas and christmas cards other than some in emails.

    I don't do gifts either, other than a check to ladies in Mexico.

    My friends do not have a need for gifts and cards and crap like that. A christmas greeting and sharing a meal or some company is good enough for us.

  4. my grandpa who lived in mesquite refered to anyone from houston as yankees..he said no respecting texan would actually choose to live there..ha.
    i can't believe i ventured out in that mad house still in shock...and can't figure out how to put that damn vcr/dvd together...or hooked up...sigh*....


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