Introducing: The Weasley Twins

The other night I accepted an invitation from a colleague to gather together to watch Harry Potter and play some trivia. I typically play cards on Fridays with a core group of good friends but the movie/trivia combined with a chance to meet some new people seemed too interesting to pass up. The Eminent Colleague introduced to me 7 Eminent Friends and the movie began.

I was surprised to find that a couple of them hadn’t seen or read the books (that being said, they looked pretty young to me, but then again, that would have put them right in the middle of the HP crazed demographic). We watched The Half-Blood Prince and I have to say that it was extremely fun. I’ve only watched the movies with my daughter so she doesn’t notice the smaller nuances or elements that appeal to adults. I’ve not watched a movie with Americans in a long time, either, and it was great to be among those who laugh and enjoy a show. It was a lot of fun.

About an hour into the show, we brought the lights up and the Eminent Colleague announced the cancellation of trivia (apparently it was a bit one-sided previously), waved away the coffee table and spread out a huge plastic dropsheet. Instead of trivia, we discovered, we were now thrust into a sock-puppet contest! The trivia trophy (yes, there really is a trophy) would be redistributed to the best sock puppeteer, perhaps in perpetuity as the Eminent Colleague will be departing for post in just a few weeks.

We had paints, glue, yarn, rhinestones, popsicle sticks, beads, pipe cleaners, felt, construction paper, you name it. There weren’t technically any rules about it but we all fell into Harry Potter characters. We ended up with Dumbledore, a couple of Snapes, Ron in his Quidditch goalie gear on a broomstick (my personal favorite), Malfoy, Hermoine, and:

Sock_Weasleys

The Weasley Twins: Fred and George!

Truth be told I was stymied for what to make and opted for a quantity vs quality approach. But when the voting came around for the best sock puppets, I ended up tied with the Malfoy. Sensing a bit of pity for the new guy and then considering that I simply splashed orange paint and stuck some pipe cleaners in while the Malfoy maker had built clothes, I begged to concede to her. Malfoy thus was granted the trophy and the movie resumed.

It was a really ingenious idea. Silly fun but yet actually not condescending. Huge props to the Eminent Colleague for both having the idea and cojones to follow through. Well done!

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Houston, we have a problem

Quick apology to the few people who’ve read and commented on this blog. The initial comments all made it past my spam filters so I never thought to check it after that, but today I noticed that several comments had been filed as spam. I’ve fixed this and approved all comments; hopefully it won’t be an issue any more.

I was going to post about why I haven’t posted much but I guess it makes sense to just explain it here. A lot has been going on, both in A-100 as well as socially, but I’ve resisted talking about it to avoid running afoul of any policies regarding what is permissible to blog about. We’ve gotten conflicting messages about social media. On the one hand, the social media landscape is clearly recognized as one that needs to be engaged but on the other, we are warned about how much trouble we can cause with it.

Adjusting to the reality that we are “on” 24/7 is perhaps the greatest initial challenge to being a diplomat. In A-100 we don’t really do anything of note; it’s all about learning and developing awareness of how the job works and what is and will be expected of us once we actually start working. Most of it is common sense, especially when it comes to meatspace and workspace issues. But cyberspace is different primarily because there is a 1) a permanent record of it and 2) the record is so easily disseminated. The ease with which comments can be taken out of context only makes it worse.

It seems that we have to give up a lot of privacy in this job. Scratch that, we don’t have to sacrifice privacy, it’s that we lose anonymity in many areas where we enjoyed it before. Innocuous comments, tweets, and status updates about one’s personal activities and opinions are throwaway on the internet until you take a job where you represent the United States in both official and unofficial capacities. Now there are people out there, both foreign and domestic, who are looking for any opportunity to take something out of context or just rake us over the coals. We are learning that we may have lost the ability to publicly be ourselves and speak freely and frankly.

It’s frustrating, really, to be forced to accept that there are people out there who simply can’t (or as is perhaps more likely, simple won’t) understand that not everything we say and do is FS. Yes, it is a lifestyle career and yes, we have to always maintain good judgement, high integrity, and represent our country honorably. But that doesn’t mean that we should be deprived of the opportunity to just have fun and be ourselves when it doesn’t violate common sense precepts of decency.

I’m really rambling now (get used to it, I guess). I think its very important that FSO engage the world via our blogs and tweets. It’s important for giving the rest of the world access to the world we live and work in and the effects of the work that we do. It’s also important to have the community and support network for ourselves. So its sad to see quality FSO blogs go dark as a result of trolling in the comments or start to second guess themselves because they get smacked down for a post or comment. We can’t be too risk averse, as individuals, as a service, as a department, lest we get left behind. I’m not arguing for imprudence either, naturally, but perhaps we can hope for a near future where we don’t have to deal with petty comments and unnecessarily strict posting policies (not saying that the current posting policies, whatever they may be, are unnecessarily strict, mind you!).

This has ended up being a long-winded way of saying that the last 6 weeks have been an incredible experience, but I haven’t written about it because much of it shouldn’t be publicly discussed (class content, etc) and some of it I don’t particularly want to blog about. Not that it isn’t notable or memorable, just the opposite. Sometimes I don’t want to write about it because I wonder if I’d draw undue attention to myself and sometimes I don’t write about things because I just want them to be mine.

Where am I going with this? Who knows. I do know that I will be posting more soon. I want to talk about my posting and preparation for it as a reference for others, at least, so expect that sooner than later, hopefully.