Learning: An Unforseen Side Effect of Work

February 25, 2009

The bulk of my mornings at work are spent doing news searches, that classic intern task. It’s gotten a lot more high tech since the days of physically clipping articles out of newspapers. I look for articles that relate to our clients in a bunch of different online publications, from newspapers specifically about Capitol Hill to the Washington Post to blogs, and sometimes I even get a chance to go back and read, not just skim, the articles that I send out.  It’s nice to feel informed, but even nicer when I come across something interesting that I never would have found otherwise.

For example, Peter Orszag, the new director of the Office of Management and Budget, might just be my new hero. Not only did he apparently play a major role in the stimulus negotiations, not only does he sound like he might bring some intelligence to healthcare reform, but he actually reenacted one of my favorite scenes from the West Wing:

It’s an empiricism that extends to life around his spacious new office. The budget director spoke to Politico on the side of his office he refers to as “the living room.” In it, a small red sofa and two hard wooden armchairs face a marble fireplace. When Orszag arrived for his first weekend of work on a snowy January day, there were logs neatly stacked.

“It still seemed a little suspicious. So I lit a piece of paper to see if it vented,” Orszag said. The smoke went up the chimney.

“So then we lit a few logs. It was venting. It was fine,” he said. The only problem: The Secret Service had capped the building’s chimneys. Smoke alarms started going off upstairs, and the building was evacuated.

And though Orzag wasn’t publicly named as the culprit (“Smoke Linked to Attempt to Use 2nd-Floor Fireplace,” was the Washington Post’s headline the next day.), the incident remains the source of much amusement inside the White House.

“Rahm asked me to send smoke signals to the Hill,” Orszag recalled.

(All from this article at politico.com)

Fantastic. More epic tales of learning to come later this week.


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