Expertise in One Thing Does Not a Manager Make

Management ExpertiseAt my day job, they love me. After five years of writing Frankly Curious at a very intense level, I did learn a lot about professional writing. That’s something that people don’t usually understand: being a professional writer doesn’t mean you are necessarily all that good in what people think of as writing. But it does mean you have expertise in certain aspects of content creation. For example, you could tell me to write a thousand words about any subject at all, and I would have a publishable article for you within about four hours. I’m kind of like a robot. They can plug me into any assignment and it will get done.

To give you an example, back in late December, I had to write an article about OAuth. I had no idea what it was, but I did the research, wrote the article, and it was published. By that point, I was both writer and editor, so it wasn’t even much checked by my main supervisor (if that’s the right word). But by the end of January, I couldn’t even remember what OAuth was. I remembered having written an article about it, but I couldn’t tell you want it was. So I went back and read what I had written and it was a perfectly fine piece of professional writing. (For the record: OAuth is a really cool thing!)

I don’t doubt that I am able to do all of this. But it’s clear that expertise in one area doesn’t imply expertise in another.

So I’m good at my job. I have the kind of expertise that employers are desperate for. And so last Wednesday, I had a Skype call with what I refer to as the two Grand Poobahs of Quality Nonsense: Toni and Richard. I mean that in the kindest sense. They are both among the smartest and most creative people I have ever known — much less worked with. And they decided that I should take over the management of our freelance writers. This is mostly because Toni has far too much other work to do, and Richard is always coming up with new things to do. I’m going along with it because it’s what they want. But I’m skeptical.

Expertise in Writing! Expertise in Managing?!

It’s true that I have much expertise in writing and editing the work that I’ve been given control over. But this kind of expertise does not translate into expertise in managing a bunch of writers. And it isn’t just a matter of my getting work done. There are a bunch of freelance writers who need to work to get paid. I need to make sure that they are kept busy so that they can pay their rent and feed their kids and whatnot. It’s daunting. And although I’ve managed people before, it has never been like this. What I’ve done before I would call more “overseeing.” For example, I once managed seven Romanian programmers. But that mostly meant that I interacted with one of them about the general work that needed to be done. He then assigned tasks.

I don’t doubt that I am able to do all of this. But it’s clear that expertise in one area doesn’t imply expertise in another. My abilities as a professional writer came as a result of thousands of hours of work. My ability to manage these writers will doubtless be helped by my writing and editing experience. But mostly, I will be dependent upon being generally smart and having a decent understanding of basic management. And in a perfect world, I probably wouldn’t be put in this position. There are probably people who are much worse writers than I am who would be far better than I will be at this.

But I hope that through a combination of my current skills, some time to learn, and lots of understanding on the part of the Grand Poobahs and the writers I can reach an acceptable level of expertise. But that sure isn’t a given.

Marco Rubio’s Success Could Mean GOP Ruin

Marco RubioMarco Rubio defied expectations by ending strong and beating out Ted Cruz for second place in South Carolina — just ten percentage points behind Donald Trump. This is a big deal, because if Rubio had come in third place, he would have received no delegates. Instead, because he finished in second place, he received no delegates. You see, South Carolina is a winner-take-all state. So Donald Trump, who got 32.5% of the vote, ended up with all 50 delegates. But Rubio’s strong second place finish (beating Cruz by 0.2 percentage points) will doubtless make many Republican establishment types thrilled that their boy still has a shot at the big kahuna.

There’s a theory for all this. Jeb Bush just dropped out of the race. If you hadn’t heard that, don’t be ashamed. Within 12 hours of his announcement, it wasn’t even listed on the front page of Google News. For months, the only real question was when he would drop out, not if. According to the theory, as people drop out, Rubio will get more and more votes, eventually pushing Cruz out of the way and finally eclipsing Trump.To the Republican establishment, all those Bush votes will go to Marco Rubio. But that’s not true. The Republican base doesn’t make that much sense. Anyway, when Ben Carson drops out a lot of his votes will go to Ted Cruz. And the rest will go to Donald Trump. So it isn’t a great theory, but it’s at least a theory.

Imagine for a moment, a general election debate between Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. You might not like what she would do as president, but there is no doubt at all that she could do the job. And next to her would be little ol’ Marco Rubio.

A big issue here is that Rubio has largely been given a pass. He was attacked by Christie and failed. Then he was attacked by Cruz and failed. But he’s never been attacked by the real big kahuna: Donald Trump. It will be very interesting to see how the world’s least liked Eagle Scout deals with Trump and Cruz hammering on him at the next debate. I’m thinking something like, “Can I have a bottle of water? Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. Can I have a bottle of water? Let’s dispel…”

Marco Rubio Isn’t a Good Candidate

This gets to something that I’ve been thinking for a long time now. The Republican establishment thinks that Rubio is their best chance in the general election. But they seem to think this because he takes orders well. I don’t see it at all. Imagine for a moment, a general election debate between Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. Even people who hate Clinton have to admit that when she’s up there on stage, she commands it. If nothing else, she seems competent. You might not like what she would do as president, but there is no doubt at all that she could do the job.

And next to her would be little ol’ Marco Rubio. He’d be all prepared just like any high school student on the debate club. The distinction would be horrifying for conservatives because they would have to admit that all their belief in authority and strength should make them support Clinton. Because Rubio is a wimp. What’s more, if Clinton is a self-serving politician willing to say anything to become president, then Rubio would join ISIS if it gave him a better chance of becoming president.

It’s been fascinating to watch the Republican nomination thus far. When it all started, we were told what a deep bench the Republicans had. (Am I wrong, or is this something that is said every election — and never about Democrats?) But in the end, there were only two people who were actually good candidates: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And they are both hated by the establishment. Interestingly, they are also both hated by the American people. But if either of them ran against Hillary Clinton, you can imagine an actual fight. If Marco Rubio runs, it is going to be a slaughter. I’m thinking the Republican establishment better start praying that their theory for Rubio’s success is wrong.

Morning Music: Diary By Bread

Bread - DiaryI had warned you that I was just going to wing it. I said that I would present songs that I loved and songs that I hate. Whatever. Well, today I am going to feature a song I despise. It may well be the worst song ever written, Bread’s hit “Diary.”

Like most really bad Bread songs, it is written by David Gates. It tells the story of a guy who finds a diary and starts reading. He becomes convinced that the woman who wrote it is secretly in love with him. But then he realizes that actually, it’s some other guy. Apparently, he isn’t Adam and she isn’t Eve. The song exist in a universe in which there are more than two people.

I’m pretty sure I know how the song was written. “I found her diary underneath a tree” came into Gates’ mind. And so he started thinking. “And then I was stung by a bee”? No. “It wasn’t very hard to see”? No. “The air was salty near the sea”? No. “I didn’t have to pay a fee”? No. “And started reading about her”? Oh, that’s the way, “And started reading about me”! Yeah! That’s a winner. And it just went on like that.

I have obvious questions about the song. For one, if the book said, “Diary of Lynn Anne Edwards,” wouldn’t you go and give it to her and tell her you found it. But no. Our hero just starts reading her personal thoughts. No wonder it turns out she isn’t pining after him. He’s a jerk! And why would he think she was writing about him? So he’s not just a jerk. He’s a narcissistic jerk. I think from now on I’m going to refer to it as Donald Trump’s Song.

Musically, it’s pretty enough. I like the guitar picking throughout. The vocal harmony on the refrain is nice. But I don’t think the strings add to it. They make the maudlin content feel all the more oppressive. But it is a good indication of what a great person I am to make myself listen to it again, just to share it with you.

How a Decent Man Deals With Finding a Diary

I found her diary underneath a stack
And so I found her and gave it right back
I did not even look at the inside
‘Cause I’m not a jerk or other awful guy.

Richard Petty’s Papa and the First Daytona 500

Lee Petty - Richard Petty's PapaOn this day in 1959, Richard Petty’s papa, Lee, won the first ever Daytona 500. Now most of you know that I’m not that interested cars, and that definitely includes auto racing. My father was a stock car racer when he was young. And I don’t much care for the danger, although certainly today it is far more safe.

Almost three years ago, I went to a NASCAR race, and wrote, NASCAR Culture and Sport. It did give me a better appreciation of the sport and for the people who like it. But it’s still not my thing. But I was struck by the fact that Lee Petty won the first first Daytona 500.

But isn’t it interesting that the first Daytona 500 was won by the father of the future stock car racing legend Richard Petty? That got me thinking about the idea of meritocracy — an idea that becomes more repugnant to me with each passing day. Let’s face it: Richard Petty didn’t go on to become one of the greatest stock car racers of all time because he got the right genes from his papa.

And we aren’t talking about money here either. I don’t even want to get into that, even though there is doubtless some of that as well. The truth is being in that environment, growing up and just being Lee Petty’s son, was the most important element in Richard Petty’s 200 Sprint Cup Series wins. Otherwise, he would have been just some hot rod driving teen who worked his whole life in a North Carolina manufacturing plant.

Richard Petty Got a Lot From Papa

We have got to get past this idea that the world is divided into the worthy and the unworthy. Our society needs to reward people only to the extent that people need to get along. In the race car driving sweepstakes, Richard Petty hit the jackpot. In the sexist pig category, he did really well too — and I’m not even talking about the recent Danica Patrick dustup. He’s also a racist I’m sure. But people don’t get judged in their totality. Instead, society decides that it is going to judge a couple of things above all else.

Well, Lee Petty and the environment he raised his sons in gifted Richard race car driving skills just as surely as bigotry. We can either accept both of those facts or we can deny them. But we can’t say he’s super keen because of his racing skills and isn’t it a shame that he grew up in a bigoted time and place.