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Once again I am looking to tap into the collective intelligence, and humor, of this community to see if anyone would be interested in a fun little project though this messageboard. I am looking to collect and assemble any jokes or humorous anecdotes related to the federal government and contracting. This is not something I am looking to publish but merely collect for my own (and hopefully other's) amusement. Let me give an example:

This was told to me by a friend who is Chief Technology Strategist for the Department of State.

A man is in a hot air balloon that is slowly losing altitude. He ends up hovering over the side of the road in the desert. A man happens by. The man in the balloon calls down to him "Sir...could you happen to tell me where I am?" The man look up, assesses the situation, and responds "Yes...you are about 30 feet in the air on the side of the road in the desert." The man in the balloon wansn't too amused with this response and calls down to him "Well thanks Einstein...you must be a government contractor." "Why do you say that?" responds the other. "Because you just told me everything that I already knew and were no help what-so-ever." The fella looks up at the man in the balloon and says "Well sir I would guess that you must work for the federal government." "Why do you say that?" responds the man in the balloon. "Because you have no idea where you are, no idea where you are going, and no idea how to get there from here."

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Well, in the NOAA regional acquisition office in Seattle there was a funny little picture of a boat named the "Miss Appropriations" which was hung above the mail area. It was funny until one of the purchasing agents in the office bought a Boston Whaler with assett forfeiture funds for the purpose of undercover law enforcement work; the boat was largely misused for personal excursions rather than fill its intended role. It was later excessed, and, well might take a FOIA request to explain the disposition.

Anyway, after the news article came out, the "Miss Appropriations" picture promptly disappeared from the mail area.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2017537782_noaaboat18m.html

True story. Dark humor. The procurement was not actually funny or acceptable in any way.

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OK....here is one for you. Got a tickle out of it, and kind of reminded me how the FAR gets all FARed up on occassion. Noah must have been a CO, because no project manager I know would have known any of this....he would have just blamed the CO.

_____________________________________________________________________

And the Lord spoke to Noah: ''In six months I'm going to make it rain until the whole earth is covered with water and all the evil people are destroyed. But I want to save a few good people, and two of every kind of living thing on the planet. I am ordering you to build Me an Ark.''

And in a flash of lightning He delivered the specifications for an Ark.

''Okay," said Noah, trembling in fear and fumbling with the blueprints.

''Six months, and it starts to rain,'' thundered the Lord. ''You'd better have my Ark completed, or learn how to swim for a very long time.''

And six months passed. The skies began to cloud up and rain began to fall. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard, weeping. And there was no Ark.

''Noah," shouted the Lord, "where is my Ark?'' A lightning bolt crashed into the ground next to Noah, for emphasis.

''Lord, please forgive me," begged Noah. "I did my best, but there were big problems. First I had to get a building permit for the Ark construction project, and your plans didn't meet code. So I had to hire an engineer to redraw the plans. Then I got into a big fight over whether or not the Ark needed a fire sprinkler system. My neighbors objected claiming I was violating zoning by building the Ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance from the city planning commission.

Then I had a big problem getting enough wood for the Ark because there was a ban on cutting trees to save the spotted owl. Then the carpenters formed a union and went out on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board before anyone would pick up a saw or a hammer. Now we got 16 carpenters going on the boat, and still no owls.

Then I started gathering up the animals, and got sued by an animal rights group. They objected to me taking only two of each kind. Just when I got the suit dismissed, EPA notified me that I couldn't complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood.

Then the Army Corps of Engineers wanted a map of the proposed new flood plain. I sent them a globe. And the IRS has seized all my assets claiming I'm trying to avoid paying taxes by leaving the country, and I just got a notice from the state about owing some kind of use tax. I really don't think I can finish your Ark for at least another five years,'' Noah wailed.

The sky began to clear. The sun began to shine. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up and smiled.

''You mean you're not going to destroy the earth?'' Noah asked, hopefully.

''Wrong!'' thundered the Lord. ''But being Lord of the Universe has its advantages. I fully intend to smite the earth, but with something far worse than a flood. Something man invented himself.''

''What's that?'' asked Noah. There was a long pause, and then the Lord spoke:

''Government.''

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You know...when I started working with the federal government I was concerned that I would lose my sense of humor. I viewed feds as having an utter innability to laugh at oneself, even when given cause to. Thanks for proving my point on the latter, and I am still fighting the former.

Humor is a sign of creative innovation...an ability to play with words, concepts, or pre-suppositions in a different way to elicit a smile or a laugh. If people can't joke, in other words if people can't use language creatively or appreciate the creative use of language in such a way that gets one to laugh, how the hell can we work with and play with language in a creative way in terms of the FAR and contracts? How can one look at FAR differently? How can one look at requirements writting differently? This is a bigger question, and I am getting the impression that we may have just stumbled on what one of the issues are in contracting (another potential research topic).

There is an expression in Eastern Europe that every joke is 10% joke, 90% truth. Lets not slip into provencial thought where our dander gets raised over any preceived slight....lighten up a little. By doing so we can see the occassional absurdity of the environment we find ourselves in, and potentially address issues that we face.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Humor is a good thing. The problem with inviting the submission of jokes on a website is that what is humorous to one person might be terribly insulting to another. I love a good joke and am almost impossible to offend, but I get antsy when someone I don't know starts to tell a joke to a group that includes people they don't know.

I don't tell jokes to strangers. You never know how a stranger will receive a joke, even one that you think is inoffensive. My experience has been that if you're going to tell jokes to an audience that includes people you don't know you should be (1) very, very careful, (2) a professional comic, or (3) the kind of person who does not care about giving offense. It does not improve a bad situation to tell someone who takes your joke badly that they don't have a sense of humor.

I've been wary of this thread ever since it was opened. If you're collecting jokes, it might be best to invite people to submit them privately.

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I have started and stopped a response 3 times now, which means that I probably need to sit and think on this a bit more. Vern, I can't help but respecfully disagree but will acquisesce.

That being said....it wouldn't take much to change the Noah joke around a bit for greater pretinance to federal contracting. For example -

"First I assigned a project manager to deliver on the requirements that you had laid out, but he got so wrapped up in trying to articulate the exact description of a cubit, and obviously had no understanding of Ark building, that he never developed the package to be sent to our CO so that it could be put out for bid. He then had to develop requirements to hire a consultant to help develop requirement to build an Ark. This pushed out the timeline. Unfortunately this consultant never built an Ark before, but did have building experience with building an Arch once, so they felt qualified. Apparently the project manager I assigned this to thought so as well, but this turned out not to be the case. They ended up building a version of Stonehenge that sank during the pilot phase (damn pagans)."

Contact me if you have a good joke, or a sense of humor, related to federal contracting, or one related generally to government that could be adapted to contacting or project management. In the mean time....I'll keep my day job.

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Guest Vern Edwards

I'm not sure what part of what I said that you disagree with. I any case, I haven't asked you to do anything or to not do anything. I was not offended by your joke. I just suggested a different course of action in order to avoid accidental offense. What you do is entirely up to you. No need to acquiesce if you prefer not to do so.

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I too have started and stopped my response. I think I can laugh at myself when appropriate (I am an identical twin, and many times have told people what it does to my confidence to look at my twin brother and think he is one ugly dude). What I do not like, and do not think is funny, is to tell jokes that depend upon and reinforce negative stereotypes to be funny. I would not think it funny for you to tell me a Jewish joke based on the sterotype of Jews being cheap, in fact I would be insulted. I have the same reaction to lawyer jokes. My wife (from Kentucky) is tired of redneck jokes. For the life of me, I cannot understand why I am supposed to be a good sport and just let myself be insulted, particularly when I do not know the person telling the joke.

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Perhaps humerous anecdotes related to our profession would be better. I was always an odd child, but I do recall always rather enjoying at the age of 9 years old the anecdotes appearing in the Reader's Digest "Humor in Uniform" section, which occurred on a rotating basis every other month.

That being said, my sense of humor is terrible and only slighlty better than sophomoric sometimes, and at other times is only tired and absurd. My best joke for an entire decade was about an octopus and a set of bagpipes, and reflecting upon it now with great regret, I would just as soon forget that I had ever told the joke.

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While it is tempting to join in on the dissection of humor, I'll agree with Dingoes and share a humorous anecdote that definitely applies ONLY to contracting:

While negotiating data rights on a sole source major systems follow on development contract, I was listening in on a call between our agency's IP attorney and the contractors attorney a couple days before Christmas that wasn't going well. They were debating whether we needed to negotiate individual individual lines of code. Our attorney stated that the individual software files were the lowest practicable segregable level and since they were developed with mixed funding at that level, the Government was entitled to Government purpose rights for the files. The contractor's attorney was getting heated and countered that different lines were developed using different funding so we should be looking at each line. Our attorney acquiesced and started to list the lines where the Government challenged the contractors assertions that the modified lines were developed at private expense (our IP attorney is a superstar). The contractor's attorney got really angry and proclaimed that he wasn't qualified to speak to each line of code, that would be just ridiculous, and that each line was inconsequential on it's own anyway. Our attorney said, "Fine, then we'll take Government Purpose rights for the whole file." The contractor's attorney was getting belligerent at this point going off about how he didn't have the people in the office to support this conversation with the holidays.

The whole conversation got nasty since we has been trying to resolve this for the better part of a year. Welet the contractor choose the date for resolution after they took 6 months to respond to our initial request for assertations, they choose the end of December for resolution well aware that most people are out of the office for holidays and then they scheduled multiple meetings they weren't prepared for, wasting Government time. Our attorney and I started to remind the contractor that the terms and date of resolution was clearly laid out in the contract they signed and we would consider them to be in volition of the terms of their contract if not resolved. In the middle of the debate as to whether the contractor was truly making a best faith effort to resolve, the contractor's attorney exclaimed, "I'm really starting to question the Government's motives here! It's like you have some sort of scheme that you're working behind the scenes! I mean, it's almost like the Government has a secret agenda to try and open this work up for competition in the future!!" To which I responded, "I wouldn't really call that a 'secret agenda,' more like the preferred method of acquisition for federal contracts."

The rest of the conversation went quickly down the drain and we had to reschedule a call for when the contractors tech team could be present. The resolution of this story came about a week later. The day of the deadline (no time set) it was clear the contractor wouldn't make the deadline, I sent the contractor a letter of concern that afternoon telling them if we didn't have an updated list from them by midnight, we had provided all of our necessary notifications to our higher ups that we would be issuing a cure notice first thing in the morning and it would be noted on their CPAR. Four hours later, they gave us rights to all the files.

Dingoes, I'd really like to hear that joke about the octopus and bag pipes. If you PM it to me, I'll share with you my go-to joke from high school about the pirate with the steering wheel down his pants which is probably too mildly inappropriate to share with the general public.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OK....so I have let this sit and simmer for a bit and think I understand Vern and wvanpup's point a bit better. I have been reading a book called Little Bets by Peter Sims who talks about Innovation and creativity. He brings up the example of Chris Rock who takes a very methodological approach to creafting his work, noting the body language as well as the reactions of certain jokes he tests in smaller clubs and venues. Anyway...an interesting read, and applicable to this thread. Thanks for your responses and insight. As usual I learned something.

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How about a "reverse joke"? Years ago, when I was in the Air Force, two other guys and I were in a night club while TDY in Tuscon, Arizona. We were listening to a comedian perform. He would point to people seated at tables around the stage and ask what they did for a living, then would pop a degrading joke back after they replied. After awhile he pointed at us . Our deadpan response in unison was "we're SAC trained killers." The guy was so flustrated that he immediately switched topics. We had agreed to provide that response as he was insulting other tables. It was a saying that we members of the Strategic Air Command (the folks with the nuclear missiles and bombers) used to internally joke about. SAC was the most strict and serious Command in the Air Force with the worst locations for bases. General Curtiss E Lemay was the father of SAC who developed the Command and perfected the concept of Nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) during the Cold War.

We thought it would be a good way to diffuse the insults without complaining about them. :D

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