What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Warning the USSR… errr… Russia. I’ve lost count of the number of times in the last six months that the US has “warned” Russia that its bad behavior will have really bad consequences. As far as I can tell, our national warning is roughly equivalent to an exasperated mother warning the child who’s trying to set the curtains on fire that they’ll “be in trouble when dad gets home.” Except dad isn’t coming home. Ever. We warn and nothing happens. We warn and the UN tries to just talk it out. We warn and the world ignores us. Historically speaking the only influence we’ve ever had on that part of the world, is when we spoke out from a position of military and economic strength and with the voice of a leader who demonstrated his willingness to back up his words with deeds. Now that we as a country seem to be resolved to back up our words with only more words, well, maybe we should just keep our national mouth shut instead of repeatedly sounding like the neighborhood wimp begging “come on guys, stop it.” Better to stay silent than to make a display our current flaccidity on the international stage.

2. Peeing in Portland. Having spent some time in Portland and having enjoyed many, many of their fine micro brews while I was there, I can understand the overwhelming need to pee at inopportune moments. Apparently yesterday someone else had the same experience, but instead of finding the nearest available tree they followed the altogether more dramatic option of taking a leak in one of the city’s reservoirs. And while that’s bad, I think maybe the city overreacted in their response of dumping 38 million gallons of water literally down the drain. I know the vast majority of us don’t want urine spiked drinking water, but it seems to me that anyone who’s ever used a swimming pool are probably exposed to a much higher concentration of the stuff than the good people of Portland were as a result of this incident. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of non-human critters who have used Portland’s open air reservoirs as an all access restroom. All I’m saying is that sometimes overkill really isn’t the answer… except when something is caught on film and a local water authority wants to show that it’s going the extra mile. My guess, if it hadn’t happened within range of a security camera, no one would have a clue it even happened. Sometimes, we’re all better off that way.

3. Rush Hour. Calling it rush hour might be a little extreme, especially for a guy who use to grind it out on the DC beltway and 95 every morning and afternoon, but lately the flight away from the office here has started taking on that flavor. They’re doing some kind of seemingly random construction outside the fence and the Jersey barriers are apparently just enough to make every driver trying to leave a 4PM forget everything they ever knew about operating a motor vehicle. Where I use to be to the car, out the gate, and pointed the right direction on the highway in under 10 minutes, now 20-25 is the norm. Sure, in the grand scheme, and extra ten or fifteen minutes doesn’t make that much difference, but it’s happening at the end of the day, when I want to be anywhere other than where I am. Really, at that point, anything standing between me and the house is considered a hostile target to be put down, gone around, over, or through. I doubt I’m alone in this feeling, but it’s one of those unnecessarily annoying things that could be alleviated by, oh, I don’t know, opening another gate and a few additional outbound lanes of traffic. Or we can just let departing personnel build themselves into a mile long backup in their daily effort to get away. Apparently that’s fine too.

Bitching about…

As a certain Facebook friend of mine is fond of pointing out, I have a bit of a tendency to “bitch about everything.” Guilty as charged. I can’t deny it. I might as well deny the rise and fall of the tide. I like to think my bitching and complaining is the last line of defense; the thing that keeps my blood pressure from spiking to the point of literally blasting off the top of my head. Sure, it never actually changes anything, but it makes me feel better. As I wrote in closing last night, blogging is my safety valve, letting me vent the day’s anger, hostility, and frustration into something like an appropriate channel, or if not strictly appropriate, maybe at least shunting it off into a space where it doesn’t do any lasting damage.

I’ve lived in my head a long time now and if there’s anything I’ve come to know about how I work, it’s that the ranting and raving aren’t the trouble. The real problems come in sullen silence on the days when I don’t say anything all. Those are my worst days – the ones where everything is roiling below the surface. Those days are the hard ones to get through with some semblance of sanity intact.

Today, the sun is up again, the week has careened past its zenith, and mercifully the weekend is coming on a day early. That’s a far cry from saying all is right with the world, but for the time being at least my particular black dog is back on its leash. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of things that have annoyed me this week, so we’re well on track for tomorrow’s post… because it wouldn’t be Thursday if I didn’t bitch about at least three things.

Mood…

Here as the week slides into the halfway point, I find myself in what I can only describe as “a mood.” It is most assuredly not a happy place, but it’s made worse because I can’t quite put my finger on what the problem is.

Actually, that’s a lie. A falsehood. A fabrication. I can identify with great precision the source of the vast majority of my angst and ill feeling. Except, of course, we’re not allowed to say things like that out loud. As part of our social contract, we’ve all agreed that we won’t call out bullshit when we see it. We’ll go along to get along and maintain the illusion of happiness with our little fictions. We won’t say anything that might upset the balance because we fear the consequences. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, maybe even more so because I can feel the truth physically twisting at my insides wanting out, but I hold my tongue for the sake of keeping the peace and preserving the status quo.

The whole illusion gnaws at me. Day in, day out, pretending that batshit crazy is perfectly normal and counting the years, months, days, and hours until you aren’t compelled to do it any more. Just one time I’d like to stand up, open my mouth, and let the truth fly out. Unvarnished, impolite, brutal honesty.

Good God, but couldn’t the world use a big heavy dose of that?

But we live in a world where words have consequences. So I swallow that honesty one more time. Push it back down into that place where it comes from. And pray to whatever gods are interested in such things for the power and good graces to let me smile and nod and not launch into a raving diatribe at inappropriate moments – knowing, as I do, that no good would come of it.

Ah, see? I feel better just for getting that small rant out in the open. My safety valve of a blog once again saved my soul.

Mooning…

Time was I’d drag myself out of bed at all sorts of wild hours just for the possibility of seeing something cool in the night sky. Tonight’s blood moon would definitely qualify as one of those things. Until I started checking out the times of best viewing and doing the math on how much cloud cover there was probably going to be here on the east coast at 3:07 AM EDT. Getting up in the middle of the night to watch something live streaming on my iPad just doesn’t have the same effect. Some things are meant to be done live, preferably with a steaming cup of coffee and a touch of Irish to help pass the time. Since tonight’s show looks like it will be clouded out, I’m going to have to take a pass and satisfy my curiosity with seeing the stream after the fact. It’s a little disappointing that I’ll be missing nature’s big show, but since there will be three more chances in the next year and a half, I’ll roll the dice on seeing the next eclipse, or the one after that, or the one after that. Surely the weather can’t conspire to block out all four of the harbingers of the end of days, right?

Unsatisfied…

The arrival of spring has created plenty of angst and gnashing of teeth here at Rental Casa de Jeff. The biggest change, of course, is that instead of staying holed up avoiding the sub-zero temperatures of the polar vortex, there’s outdoor maintenance to do. Now, I’d much rather be working in the yard than scrubbing the kitchen, but there’s a problem this year that that I haven’t dealt with before – for the last month, there hasn’t been any real indoor cleaning because pushing the vacuum or bending over with a dust pan sent near-blinding pain rocketing up my back. It’s better now than it was, but bending is still something to be avoided if at all possible. With that said, it basically means the inside of this joint is “grubby” to put it politely.

With the rain and warm weather the past two weeks, the grass and weeds are growing, the shrubbery needs cut back, and the whole yard needs a good going over to get it looking a little less like a foreclosure waiting to happen. Of course, the yard is also a victim of the same problem that plagues the inside – anything that requires me to bend more than 15 degrees off vertical is a fiesta of pain.

I think the compromise is going to be getting the yard cut as best I can with the tractor and trying to hit the most unsightly bits with the weed eater this afternoon. Next week, if the weather holds, I’ll law down a coating of suppressive fire with weed killer along all the other edges. I hate the idea of things looking less than manicured, but that seems to be the only middle ground between letting the whole damed thing go to seed and well and truly crippling myself getting to 100%. As with all manner of compromise, I find it deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Infinite Capacity. There’s an decade old Dilbert comic in which he says “I have infinite capacity to do more work as long as you don’t mind that my quality approaches zero.” Like Dilbert, my capacity to do work is infinite, my time however is not. I’ve got eight hours a day, five days a week. No matter how fine you slice and dice the list of things to do, I’ll never get more than 40 hours worth of work done… and while my capacity to work may be infinite, my capacity to give a shit surely has a far more limited range.

2. Email. I think it may be time to switch email addresses. My venerable old gmail address is currently swamped with messages from my vet, receipts from online orders, the NRA, Starbucks, my health insurer, Outback Steakhouse, and the dozen or so blogs I follow on a daily basis. It’s possible that I’ve hit the point where I might actually be trying to take in too much information… and that’s sort of new territory for a guy who would generally be happy enough jacking into the internet Matrix style with a port in the back of his head. Somehow I’m going to have to cull the thundering herd of email that lands in my inbox demanding attention, because right now, I’m studiously ignoring it even as the counter keeps ticking upwards. That’s probably not an indication of a healthy, working information management plan.

3. Change. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it just makes sense. Sometimes, however, it’s done for no apparent reason or simply to change for the sake of change. That’s stupid. Especially when what you’re doing already works and what you want to do is untried. There are plenty of ways to get your feet wet that don’t include jumping head first into the barrel and hoping for the best. But hey. I’m just a guy sitting here watching the ebb and flow and pondering how much easier life got when I stopped worrying about making rank.

Three tips for workplace survival…

I make a concerted effort to steer this blog away from specific issues at my own office and more towards a general discussion of work in general and the foibles of the workplace writ large. However, like the modern cop dramas that everyone seems to love these days, the following issues are ripped from the headlines of real life experience while working in an office somewhere in Maryland. No bureaucrats were physically harmed in the writing of this post, but their souls might just be a little more crushed for the experience.

1. Don’t send an email and then immediately walk over to the recipient’s desk to tell them you sent an email. Thanks to the little glowing screen on their desk, they probably know this already. Plus, there’s a good chance they’re working on something and will get to whatever issue you’re having in its order of importance to them, not based on the number of times you ask for it. In fact, multiple requests for the same information will result in all of your messages being shifted to the bottom of the pile.

2. If you’re working in an office far removed from lunch options, there’s a safe bet that you’ll do at least a little eating at your desk. While it’s sad and depressing in its own right, the thing people need to remember is that the lunch break is sacrosanct. It should be inviolable, except under the most extreme of circumstances. If you approach someone’s desk and they’re stuffing half a sandwich into their face, that shouldn’t be considered an open invitation for a long winded discussion about anything. That’s especially true if the victim of your verbal deluge is trying to read a few pages of a book or magazine while jamming his face full of food – pretty much the universal sign that they’re on break and not working at the moment. If you’re one to be stuck eating at your desk on the regular, picking up a Do Not Disturb or Out to Lunch sign to hang on your cube at appropriate times might not be a bad investment.

3. If you think you’re having a discrete personal conversation on the phone in your cubicle, think again. Everyone within earshot knows if you’re blowing up at your wife, behind on your mortgage, or recently contracted the herp. Yes, we all know having those conversations from the comfort of your office chair is convenient, but sometimes everyone would be better served if you wandered off somewhere and had that discussion on your cell phone. When you’re forced by your profession to sit shoulder to shoulder with them for eight hours a day, you can at least do them all the favor of not discussing your most recent bout of hemorrhoids?

If you found these tips useful, remember there are plenty more hints and tricks handily outlined in Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees.