Relief or Suicide?

You be the judge.

The relief is mine for saying something out loud that I should have done years ago. The suicide is mine but used metaphorically to describe me torpedoing a ‘traditional’ career route. Is the following full of broad remarks? For sure. I know and admire many excellent people who are not of the type I mention. However, the exception proves the rule.

I hate working in large corporate environments. There, said it again but more succinctly. I hate the way they make me feel, mostly because the corporate political culture is something I am so terribly bad at. I seem to end up putting my foot in it time and time again. That makes me feel stupid when I know I’m not. Scared because I screwed up and generally in fear because my livelihood is in the hands of another. Usually the one who no longer likes me.

This doesn’t happen to me when I don’t sniff corporate BS and buzzwords and if I worked in a firm it’d be one that eschews such nonsense. For some reason the self-aggrandising style of not very clever posturing triggers something in me that I am very poor at restraining. I have an unquenchable need to call BS when someone is using the phrase of the moment to sound clever or fit in. It doesn’t bother me if there is a logical reason and the word use can be adequately explained or defended. But bullshit is bullshit and needs calling out.

Using language to be part of a group has also been a thing for a long time. It is a necessity of many occupations, from builders to brain surgeons. I get that too. When someone deeply average in their ability, but politically tuned and aspirational, starts adopting the language to try and get ahead then I am triggered by that. Just think of the people who have mangled the popular idiom that originated in the US and is: ‘He can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?’ into ‘He can talk the walk but can he walk the talk?’ Wrong. just wrong. Go look it up. It is even in the Cambridge Dictionary. If you think for a moment about the intended meaning, the twisted version doesn’t make a jot of sense. That small thing hasn’t stopped many delivering it as some sage sounding business judgement upon the attitudes and capabilities of another. And when I hear it I tell them. Nicely and politely, as a service. Not appreciated and often defended in a laughably naive way. And therein lies my weakness.

And yes, the English language is indeed a many splendoured thing that is forever evolving and can’t be cast solid at some determined point. I am not raging about new vocabulary, just the misused and tortured clever vocab that is business babble.

Unless someone is truly good at something then the pretenders are often heard mangling expressions and using convoluted language when simple speech will do. I have come to the unscientific conclusion that many people fear that their worth is diminished if they are clear and simple, and to avoid the cognitive dissonance created by this fear they attempt to enhance the message in a vain attempt to be perceived as a more valuable asset when they utter impenetrable gobbledegook that can only mean that they are really really clever. Usually, this type of behaviour is driven by a complete lack of a deep down personal security and very shallow knowledge, all balanced on a knife-edge of potential exposure.

So many large companies seem to have bloated to the extent that there are so many people in hard to define positions, I am sometimes given to wondering if every other one dropped dead overnight, would the company manage to go on operating tomorrow? Sadly, I think that most would.

I have had the good fortune to meet some incredibly smart people. However, smarts alone don’t cut it unless they can communicate it. My favourite professor – whom I hold in high regard – writes the most impenetrable books. I assume it is for them and four of their closest friends and they do it for the amusement of the others in their group.

The cleverest people I know can make the most complex issues simple and explicable to any audience. Usually, an explanation like that brings real joy to the audience as a complex topic is simplified and no-one is left feeling dumb. The topic may have huge depth and granularity that a lifetime of study will never unravel, but that is another thing.

And the above brings me back to a general dislike of large corporate HR departments. The recruiting arm seem interpret their role as one of homogenising the new-hires and ensuring that no ‘quirky or different’ people slip past them. I live for the day I read about an HR Director issuing an edict that one of the main hiring criteria is that every new candidate must be a bit interesting and a bit different.

In the meantime, I am not holding my breath for someone to contact me, recognising that my incredible talent is all wrapped in a tortured soul. It really is to get it off my chest, think it through, write down, read it back, correct it because I hate poor spelling and typos (my gorgeous wife has a gimlet eye and always gives me a corrections list when I am sure it is perfect) and free myself from the perennial worry about having a perfect CV in order to make it through some byzantine filtering system, a panel interview that is (crush my soul – again) competency based and constant act of searching for jobs and trying to mentally lever myself into something that deep-down I know that I’d hate.

(Career) Suicide? – Most definitely if a LinkedIn style corporate job is the aim. It isn’t so I am in rude health.

Relief? – Yes. Very scary, quite cathartic but I am extremely glad I have got it off my chest.

LinkedIn Is A Funny Old Place

No pretty pictures to ensure reader engagement. I’m afraid this requires good old-fashioned reading from top to tail. All typos and gibberish are mine.

I once heard of LinkedIn described as ‘Facebook for grown-ups’, which is very apt. Sure, it is all about the sharing of commercial and light academic knowledge but scratch the surface and there is little to separate it from Facebook.

I love the sharing element. I have a Facebook account as it keeps a closer link between me and my friends and family dotted around the world. We can chat, share pictures and experiences and indulge in a bit of banter and that is a Good Thing.

But Facebook is social and LinkedIn is business, though those lines are blurring by the day as Facebook pursues global domination. All the things Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the like are blamed for also hold true for LinkedIn. The pretenders are out there too. The ‘look at how amazing I am’ and ‘look at how clever and deep and educated I am’ people are there, e-strutting around preening themselves in front of others and setting unrealistic, unobtainable and unfair goals for the more credulous to aspire to. Just like the ‘proper’ social media sites do. My favourite LinkedIn profile is from this fellow, John. His truthfulness is refreshing.

However, my favourite LinkedIn bit of weirdness is reserved for the job posts. Face it: if someone is looking for a new job they may be moving from a position of strength but equally they may be in a crappy situation and perhaps a little bit vulnerable. The very least an employer could do is treat them with a modicum of decency. My experience is that if you get a confirmation email it is generic and tells you that you shouldn’t hold your breath. Also, signed with a terrible ‘kiss-off’ of ‘The Talent Management Group’ or something similar. How much effort is it to use names and be accountable by signing a name? The depersonalisation of the process speaks volumes about the sort of company it is and how they think of their staff.

Indeed, I wonder if there is a secret cross-industry code between recruiters that all job adverts should be written in a way that leaves the reader wondering what they actually want, whilst simultaneously sound as if mere mortals need not apply. Why have a two paragraph description when an eighteen paragraph one can be written? I harbour a suspicion that many job posts are just a means of harvesting CVs. For why?

I can only imagine that this is a device used by HR (Talent Management, Human Capital or what ever the current buzzword for Personnel is) to justify a drive for mediocrity and uniformity and enhance the size and intrusiveness of their role whilst simultaneously ensuring that the blame for any bad hire can be laid somewhere else.

Some of the more backward HR departments are often populated by people who fall for such unscientific malarkey as Myers-Briggs profiling or similar drivel. The advocates of these so-called tools are fully invested and will support them to the hilt. The fact remains that there is no real science behind them. They were and are just a management fad, flashier versions of a horoscope. Surround it with logos, get corporate buy-in (there is no direct correlation between seniority and [lack of?] gullibility), refer to it as a methodology, assure all comers that it is supported by ‘deep-dives’ into the data and so on, and best of all pay a lot for it and it then attains a mythical and unquestionable status. Hilarious really.

On candidate suitability, my favourite story is told by Rory Sutherland in his book The Wiki Man, because he was so terrible he was nearly fired until a more visionary boss channelled him in a suitable way. Now, he is far closer to the top of the heap than the bottom. I’ll bet he wasn’t hired by an HR bod who carefully vetted the application based against a set of impenetrable criteria.

Back to the more general weirdness of LinkedIn. I am far from guilt free as it is a place I have flirted with on and off for many years and taken the odd free month of premium and then cancelled. It has only ever succeeded in making me question whether or not I’d fit anywhere. If I use LinkedIn as my guide then my extensive and varied experiences seem to count for ought these days. And to be clear: by extensive and varied I mean it is almost unbelievable, even to me!

There is a list here of everything I have ever done, in a rough order. Bear in mind many of these were/are concurrent. I am not a major job hopper although it appears, even to me, as if I may be.

LinkedIn seems huge, it seems important and it seems unmissable. Yet, on reflection, no one has ever told me how they learned something life changing or won their dream job on the site. It is, like all Social Media, a data collection tool. I can only imagine that is why Microsoft bought it.

Do I want a role? Sure. Am I raging against the machine? I’d like to think I am not. However, I refuse to be a homogenised clone that has buffed and curated a LinkedIn profile to within an inch of credibility. I want to do work with meaning and with with interesting and intelligent people. That probably won’t come from LI, but you never know. Try me: What I don’t want is that my creativity and individualism are ground under the heel of thoughtless conformity.

What Have You Done?

An honest career/experience history in time order. No airbrushing.

V = Volunteer and P = Paid and E = Own business

V – Growing up I volunteered at the Abbotford Airshow when it was a smaller – but still large – affair. My father was in the Flying Club and they organised all the volunteers. I was a general gopher and dogsbody that was keen to have anything to do with aeroplanes.

P – Babysitting and Lawnmowing – rural BC

V – Off-siding on a Bell 206 single helicopter base in Dease Lake, Northern British Columbia. My father was the pilot/engineer for Frontier Helicopters.

P – Sold Pick-up truck canopies and after-market accessories at Rover Recreation

P – sprayed glyphosate on unwanted new-growth on deforested and replanted hills that were too steep or remote for helicopter access. Very hard physical work.

P – Worked in a ski-rental franchise at Lake Louise in BC. Entailed skiing as much as possible in between shifts at the store. From Amerian tourists to the exiled Sri Lankan Royal family. We fitted them all.

P – Fitted Ski-Boots in central Sydney, Australia. Heart of the financial sector as skiing is not an ‘everyman’ sport in Australia like it is in Canada.

Hitchhiked across Australia from Sydney to Perth in 3.5 days. 

P worked 1000km from perth (Laverton) for a gold mining company called Ashton Gold. I was a geologists assistant and an off-sider on an RC Drilling rig further out in the bush.

P – Tail end of the UK season at Snow and Rock on High Street Ken.

P – Shortest ever job was selling advertising for a v. a dodgy publication in Covent Garden. I went out to get a sandwich on day 2 and never came back. Not into cheating people.

P – selling photocopiers and fax machines. My patch was the graveyard of Mayfair. You walked around ‘prospecting’ which meant gaining access to offices, cadging a compliment slip from reception and trying to find out who to ask for regarding purchase. You went back to the office with your haul and set about telephoning them, trying to speak to the right individual, ascertain their needs and sell them a photocopier. Hard work, no fun and a great learning experience (upon adequate time passing to reflect).

P – pharmaceutical sales representative for Servier Labs. Possibly the strangest and most thorough vetting. My main referee was met by a fellow who had flown over from France and interviewed him about me over a nice lunch that he bought. Meanwhile, back in the UK, the hiring manager was a firm-believer in handwriting analysis. The rest of my skills were for ought as long as I passed vetting and analysis!

P – pharmaceutical rep for Baker Norton Ltd. BN was a company created by a team of ex-Searle employees to capitalise on the (then) new Fundholding scheme for GPs. They were keen on good salespeople over all else. We were well remunerated, had nice cars and the company was a success.

Interestingly, we had some of the first laptops. I went online a lot for my own fun back then (early 90’s) and I saw the commercial potential for the Internet. The MD allowed me to change roles and spearhead the company’s first steps onto the web.

V – around this time I lived in Windsor, had read an ad in the Tube for Special Constables, and it struck me that I could exorcise my desire for non-work challenges whilst doing something worthwhile by being part of the police. I joined Thames Valley police for the first time as a Special. 

E – d.web was a full service Internet company at the beginning of the dot-com boom. I had a contract with BT to provide 10 page websites for their business customers. Dial-up was it those days.

P – Cap Gemini Life Sciences team. One of the worst career decisions I have made as it was out of desperation (long story). 6 months of wasted time. The less said the better. I left before I was fired. 

P – Druid – a mid-tier Siebel consultancy that had just bought a Scottish firm owned by a chap who was to prove to be a very influential person on me, George Knox.

P – Siebel Systems – Lecturing and consulting at the peak of the dotcom bubble. A truly bizarre, money isn’t real, time in business. I travelled to 35 countries for clients and specialised in the alignment and installation of complex sales process methodologies.

E – Siebel fired us all in one hit and re-employed me as an independent contractor on USD 1500 per day. The unreal money madness continued. I also did private consulting and my dinner part story is when I left Central Moscow in a hurry to get home in time for the birth of my daughter. It was touch and go but I made it.

V –  started as a student and worked my way to becoming an Observer (Instructor) for the largest IAM (Institute of Advanced motorists) motorcycling club in the UK. TVAM. I rode a lot, I trained a fair few people and for a while was a very dialled in rider. I have sold all my bikes now.

P – Interim 6 month cover at Microsoft.  What a let down. A once dynamic and magical place to work (in the 1980s I guess) that blew me away with the level of ‘corporateness’. 

E – Only Organic was an organic veg box scheme that I started, grew and sold to Abel& Cole. Fantastically hard work – the least I have ever made for the hardest I have ever worked – and incredibly educational and fun. I didn’t make a fortune but I washed my face with the sale. Lehman Brothers collapsed 6 weeks later so I dodged a bullet there.

V – stay at home dad with the odd bit of consulting. I assumed that there would be a queue around the corner of people desperate to employ me after I sold the business. How wrong I was. The world had collapsed (the financial crash) and no one was hiring. Let alone an entrepreneur that they thought may just be using them to build reserves to launch another business. My then wife was very well remunerated and instead of me trying to get odd bits of work I focused on raising our daughter. Anyone who questions the apparent ‘lack of effort’ required to be a parent has no idea.

P – After having a horrendous bicycle crash that saw me being bolted back together like the bionic man I started at a publishing intermediary. It was a dumb thing on both sides. I had been offered the well remunerated job before the accident. I was out of my head on painkillers after it. It didn’t matter as their entire worldwide operations went bust very shortly afterwards. This was a textbook case of not responding to change (the move to digital) fast enough. Bang, a 112y old company was gone overnight.

EDUCATION – I dipped out of being a grown-up and have spent the last 6y doing a BA History (Hons) 2:1 and an MSc Politics with research Methods (Merit). 

P/V – I do some tutoring now and am particularly proud that in 6 weeks I helped a failing A-level politics student move from a weak E to a strong C. I also write articles and contribute to the Barts MS blog and 

I am tired just writing this. Time for a cup of tea…

Limited Bandwidth or Bandwidth Limits?

I am not sure what to call the affliction I find myself with. Perhaps it is vanity thinking I could run two blogs and do everything else I need to, perhaps the personal insult felt by the politicos disregard for the electorate, focusing instead upon themselves, has dissipated as you can’t feel annoyed forever.

Either way, I am struggling to write sensible content for this blog when my focus is on as I job hunt.

I find I simply do not have the time to post regularly here and more often than not my ideas I may have for posts are overrun by the ideas for the Data blog.

Apologies to my faithful band of followers (still in the low single digits, if at all). I’ll write here sometime I imagine. That sometime won’t be until I start a job.

Brexit – Where Can I Start and Where Will It End?

This is one of those sorts of posts where it is just cathartic to write. I don’t have any viable solutions, I think I understand the problems and I am certain that I am not alone in the feeling of abandonment of the people by their elected representatives.

I didn’t want to leave the EU, I still think it is a very poor idea with nothing but an overall negative effect on many parts of the UK. Not just financially, but if a vote is re-run then societal as well. The effect on society seems to be entirely overlooked, and because it is not as easily quantifiable in economic terms it falls into the, ‘something that can safely be ignored because there are no good soundbites to be had from it’ sort of issue. It is a sociological sort of issue and those sorts of issues are not the stock in trade of our elected representatives.

I voted leave but would not characterise myself anymore as a Remainer. There are several points that really trouble me and make me feel unable to support a second referendum.

The first is that, regardless of party, the vast majority of our elected representatives appear to have treated the entire process as a means for them to further a mix their own and their party’s political agenda. Whether it was the early leadership challenges in the Tory party, the LibDem stance of standing on the sidelines repeating versions of ‘I told you so, it’ll never work, we always had a better idea’ to Corbyn and Labour ignoring it all in the first instance and lately playing brinkmanship so the old school socialist revolutionaries can realise their misplaced belief that the subsequent turmoil will upset people so much they’ll have a revolution.

The second remark is a development of the previous observation. If there was one time in the history of the post-war United Kingdom that really necessitated a coming together across party and ideological boundaries to make the best of a bad thing, Brexit is it. The vote was to leave the EU and however much I feel that this was the wrong outcome I respect the decision. On that basis I had a rather naive expectation that the political establishment also appreciated the seriousness of the decision and – like the EU did – have a negotiation strategy and a team to implement it. Instead, all we heard was a bunch of blowhards posturing and making further false claims. Much of the Leavers behaviour seemed rooted in the, ‘Britain is so bloody brilliant that all those whingeing Johnny Foreigners will come to their collective senses and form an orderly queue to beg us to make deals with them’ mindset. It seems to be seeping into their collective consciousness that this isn’t the case. With 60 odd days to go. No one is overtly admitting this but there is a great deal of manoeuvring and double-speak in an attempt to back away from all the bombastic remarks. The Remainers have also behaved extraordinarily poorly on the most part. Two examples from Twitter – not my sole data source I assure you – are the Labour MP David Lammy and the Lib Dem MP Tom Brake. They are very vocal and repetitive with their sole contribution seeming to be around trying to stir the pot and cause upset. Never have either of them said what they are doing that is constructive. Agitating for a so-called People’s Vote/second referendum whilst doing nothing else is not a respectful way to treat their constituents who stand to be affected.

Thought of the social divisions that stand to occur if a second referendum were to be held seem to be being avoided. The feelings on both sides of the debate are running pretty high already, so imagine if one side (it was near enough 50/50) felt they were being ignored? There are valid arguments on both sides and there is a lot of value in being mature enough to admit error and change ones mind. That makes perfect sense. However, the structure that was used to conduct the referendum is what it is, it wasn’t illegal. The allegations of misconduct on both sides are there. No one likes losing. Especially if it seemed so obvious to so many that leaving the EU was, overall, detrimental. Martin Lewis recently called the referendum a black and white vote on a rainbow of issues. The big issue is in just how poorly the vote was structured, because no one took the idea of losing seriously. In and Out was the only option on the ballot paper but in reality those that voted did so for a variety of reasons. Some were based on complete falsehoods, others on very legitimate concerns. Few people voted for exactly the same reasons. 

What is overlooked by the bulk of the Remain camp is that where by and large their choice to remain was closer to black and white, the Leave voters articulated many more reasons for their choice. They won the referendum and to re-run the vote until we achieve the ‘correct’ answer is akin to replaying a Test Match until the team that was stronger on paper triumphed and that is definitely not a Britisher’s idea of fair play.

A core factor that does unite remain voters is the sense of identity as British. The idea that this once proud nation of which they are part of is anything less than wholly in control of its own fate is an anathema to many. To see the power of identity in politics, one only need look across the Atlantic and see that the victory of Trump was driven by his ability to strike the right identity note (You are American, You are being ignored by the ‘Elites’ and You are no longer great. I, Donald Trump, will Make America Great Again – MAGA – and by extension I will make You great again). Our referendum was pitched by the Leave side as all about ‘Taking Back Control’, which was the masterstroke of the Leave contingent. It was a simple but powerful message that Leave voters could identify with.  People appreciate simple messages and most do not want to be mired in the complexity of politics. A Yes/No choice is great as far as they are concerned.

The so-called ‘Elites’, the ruling classes who govern the country were painted as having ceded an unacceptable degree of control to the European Project. It isn’t important whether this was accurate. It stuck with people and made the choice a simple one, especially for the older voters. Here, at last, was probably their final chance to grab back control for Great Britain. And no matter how much the liberal elite squeaked a vote to leave was the right thing to do.

If the referendum is re-run in any form there will be a great big chunk of the population that will be very unhappy. The Elites will be ignoring their heartfelt desires to take back control. This time this contingent will have lost control not only to the Europeans but to their own citizens. I’m not sure how well they’ll take that.




A Response To: Ads Don’t Work That Way

Kevin Simler recently wrote a very thought provoking piece about the mechanisms, intent and efficacy of advertising, that I enjoyed reading. This piece is not a refutation nor a bitchy ‘kick in the crotch’ piece that is not uncommon  in academic circles. I do believe that Simler overlooked one key component of the mix.

The concept of Emotional Inception – if I understand it correctly – whereby we are manipulated by images of situations/states that we aspire to doesn’t go into the required depth. It is true that the initial premise is correct, though there is a much deeper psychological explanation underlying this. The understanding of this state also helps to explain why we do not act in an economically rational way, something the behavioural scientists have also long challenged. See this (now older but still excellent) TED Talk on apparently irrational consumer choices.

Simler goes further with an example of a Corona beer ad, remarking how it is devoid of any information, instead it seems to be designed to associate the product with an ideal relaxation scenario. Whilst this is not wrong in and of itself, it isnot so simple. Advertising people would argue that such an ad cannot exist on its own but as part of a larger campaign, often running over many years, likely comprised of television, billboards, bus stops, targeted digital advertising and a variety of print mediums. Therefore, looking at it to serve as a stand-alone explanatory piece is unsatisfactory.

More importantly, what is being overlooked are the concepts on consumption developed by the recently deceased Sociologist and Philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. He writes of Liquid Modernity (2002 Polity Press). One of several areas addressed is the discussion of shopping (consumption) as a liquid modern rite for exorcising uncertainty. The concept that to ease the cognitive dissonance of realising where you are (not close enough) and where the ‘ideal’ is (beach, beer, new car, new phone etc) one has to constantly consume and consume again, merely to keep the gap at a minimum. Bauman contends that in the post post-modern (he refers to it as liquid modernity) times we live in the pace of everything is higher. Electronic communications and social media facilitate a much greater rate of information transfer. As a slight aside this has increased our fear (unsurprisingly, called liquid fear by ZB) of the world we live in. In general the rates of bad things happening hasn’t risen (proportionally) but the speed and ease with which we hear of them has.

Advertisers need also to create the feeling in consumers that there is always a new ideal. Fashion is the epitome of this as it is ever-changing, liquid. One has to invest so much time absorbing what is the latest ideal, then resources to consume to conform – or even come closer – to it. Only by engaging in this constant quest can the cognitive dissonance be kept at bay, made tolerable. Effective advertising relies on the consumer never questioning why but merely striving  to avoid the deep rooted mental discomfort.  Little wonder that the personal borrowing rate has rocketed in the UK

Having a teenage daughter is an excellent way to observe this at work. It is a constant challenge, as whilst empathising with her feelings (I was a teen too once upon a time) of the need to conform or, even better, to be ‘fresh everyday’ (her phrase!), trying to highlight the absurdity of chasing a moving target that can never be caught is the really tough thing to do. And, that is the point, it can never be caught. It is an unobtainable goal regardless of the resources at one’s disposal.


When Britain Lost a Leg

It is gone now and never coming back.

To be crystal clear: the UK is in an appalling state of disarray as a result of Brexit. The entire circumstances surrounding the run up to the vote, the vote itself, the result ,and the turmoil and pain that it has created are bad, and the more I think about it and the more manoeuvring I see from both sides the more I am pained. However, it has and is happening.

The Brexit result is akin to losing one’s leg in a terrible accident. An accident so bad that the limb is destroyed. There is no hope of ever getting the leg back. Ever. There is a time and a place to forensically unpick  the reasons for the accident. However, no amount of protest or analysis nor recognition of the terrible circumstances that led to the loss of the leg will ever get the leg back. The UK is a political amputee.

Our country is puzzlingly stuck at the point of pre-Brexit, where arguing about the circumstances leading up to the result could actually change anything. Those fights were fought, court cases lodged and lost, votes in parliament and the Lords fought over and eventually lost. Article 50 was enacted. We are leaving the EU.

The Remainer camp are obsessed with the minutiae, the unfairness, the damaging effects that will undoubtedly occur and all the other reasons why Brexit should not have happened. In the meantime, the Leavers are grinning, crossing their arms and sticking with permutations of, “You lost. Get over it.” They don’t need to explain why, justify the result or even come up with a plan for the process when faced with the style of opposition presented by the Remainers. The Remain obsession with the past plays right into their hands.

The complete lack of political realism, seemingly driven by a complete refusal to acknowledge political realities in the hope that if something is wished for hard enough it may become true, is exacerbating the damage as we tumble unchecked towards the exit date. Each camp is as guilty as the other with regards to the past. It is like watching two bald men fighting over a comb.

The leg is gone. There are only two options now. The first is  is tantamount to wishing the leg back, which is wishful thinking. The second is to engage fully with our new one-legged reality. In these terms it means attending to the wound and engaging with the physiotherapy.

If there were fewer egos, on both sides, that needed salving I daresay we could manage a better outcome. Finger pointing and engaging in endless permutations of “he said she said” achieves nothing. It is little wonder that the rest of the EU and many other countries are looking at the UK with a mixture of bewilderment and exasperation.

If all the brainpower and effort that was devoted to picking over the legitimacy of  the amputation were to be redirected towards making us the best one-legged country in the world, we could become a top-notch one-legged ass kicker. Instead, we seem to be collectively determined to make us the hobbling cripple of Europe.