Monday, August 22, 2005

I hacked my way through the thicket; a maze of fragmented ramblings

I did something not particularly bright today: I gave a bureaucrat a choice between solving a problem with a couple of minutes of extra work on their part, or solving it by throwing money at it. Guess which option won out? I've been having this recurring problem, you see, with the HM's parliamentary assistant. I receive the raw content for publications - Ten Percenters and Householders - and format it in InDesign. We go through several rounds of revisions, some pointless and some not, and end up with Microsoft Publisher files to send off to Printing Services. If that was the entirety of the workflow, I'd be happy, but it's not; without variation, there seems to be a pattern of massive painful editing between the first and second step, because what they're sending me is just too long. There's a limit to how small body text can go, and even at 9 or 10 point, the first draft I receive is always overlong by about 30%. With Ten Percenters, I can put my foot down, because we're dealing with very narrowly-defined limits of available space, and one or two stories end up getting dropped. (This, despite repeated assurances that next time we'll stick to 1200 words maximum, we promise, etc etc.) The fall Householder, however, was even worse than usual: too long by about 60%. I may be able to cheat margins and point sizes by fractions to solve minimal overreach, but that's getting into miracle-worker territory. This was where I made my fatal mistake: I pointed out that, should the office not wish to move up to one of the larger (and 30% more impactful of the budget) Householder format sizes offered by Printing Services, the parliamentary assistant and riding office manager would have to go through another round of editing to cut the whole thing down. I expected, understanding the cost, that the choice would be to snip a few of the more inconsequential pieces. "Oh, there's bigger sizes?" In short, I seem to be partially responsible for causing about $1600 of non-essential discretionary spending out of the office budget, compared to how things stood yesterday. With the congenital editing problem we seem to have, too, I'm afraid the staffers in question will never be able to downsize back to the previous format, so long as the HM is in office. And, of course, that's ultimately coming out of the general House budget, derived from general revenues. Sure, $1600 isn't much compared to envelopes stuffed with hundreds of thousands mysteriously being handed off to Liberal operatives, but that's still a significant amount of money that may or may not have been otherwise spent, and certainly didn't need to be. The growth of the bureaucratic machine is due largely to unthinking and rash decisions like this, made because it's easier than deciding whether or not constituents really need to hear about one pet issue or another yet again. And I'm part of the problem, now. I'm so sorry.

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