What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Still waiting. Here we are 9 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published nine weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.

2. Medical records. Online medical records are great, except the part where the system used by my primary care provider and the system used by one of my specialists don’t in any way communicate with one another. There’s also no obvious way to manually upload information from one to the other. A quick call to my PCP’s office confirmed that “Yeah, it really doesn’t do that.” Super. So, I’ll just continue to schlep hard copy of reports and test results around like it’s 1957 because that’s still easier than finding and using a goddamned fax machine in the year of our lord 2022.

3. Advertising. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I’ve once again received an email from every company I’ve done business with for the last 20 years. I don’t know what they think they’re accomplishing, but it doesn’t feel like effective advertising… unless their definition of effective is to jam up my inbox with stuff I’ll delete before reading and thereby fill a potential customer with questions about whether he wants to do business with them again. I’m sure there’s some advertising industry metric that shows why mass email blasts is a good idea. Maybe it works for some consumers, but it doesn’t do much for me other than piss me directly off. 

At least he’s entertaining…

Elon Musk has always engendered my curiosity. From Tesla and The Boring Company to his new role as chief of fucking around and finding out with Twitter, the man may be a lot of things, but dull and uninteresting isn’t generally considered one of them.

As much as he captures my interest, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. I tend to think he’s a guy whose demons are at least as big as his better angels. Still, he’s undeniably entertaining to watch if you come at it from a slightly nihilistic perspective.

Elon’s most recent hot take, that somehow Freedom of Speech equals buying ads on Twitter, is one of those times where he just makes my head hurt. He’s obviously smart enough to know that what we commonly call “freedom of speech” precludes the government from sanctioning you, the individual, (or you the company) from things you say. It doesn’t in any way protect you from other people or businesses deciding you’re absolutely crammed full of shit and opting to not work with you.

While Elon is perfectly free to say anything he wants and use Twitter in whatever way he chooses, what he isn’t, and can’t be, is free of the natural consequences of his words and actions. In the free marketplace of radical individualism that he seems to espouse, people (and companies) voting with their feet and their wallets, should be the thing he most welcomes. The fact that the big advertisers have left in droves, is sending a message, but Elon seems determined to misinterpret the signal.

Give a little bit…

Since it’s Giving Tuesday, every non-profit on the planet is out there scrambling for your charitable dollars today. I present the following list of those I choose to support today, for Giving Tuesday, and throughout the year. As always, it’s a list that focuses on helping animals, because people are awful and it’s so often the animals, both wild and domestic, that pay the price for that. I’d ask that you consider them when putting together your giving plan for today and the future.

Clean Futures Fund – The CCF facilitates The Dogs of Chernobyl program. These dogs are the descendants of those left behind during the evacuation of Pripyat in April 1986. Despite an initial attempt by Soviet authorities to kill the abandoned dogs, breeding was out of control. Since their involvement beginning in 2017, no cats or dogs in the exclusion zone have been culled. They conduct sterilization clinics to reduce the population, provide vaccinations and medical care to strays, and provide food to the Dogs of Chernobyl. 

Delaware SPCA – The mission of the Delaware SPCA is to prevent cruelty to animals. We bring our mission to life through programs that provide shelter and adoption for unwanted and homeless pets, reduce pet overpopulation through affordable spay/neuter, and enable pet retention by providing low-cost veterinary services.

Cecil County Animal Services – CCAS serves as the County’s Animal Control Authority and provides quality care to animals in the community through the management of an open-admission shelter.  Additional programs and services provided through this Division include the Pet Pantry Program, Adoption and Foster Services, Behavioral Helpline, Pet Loss Support, Humane Education, Project Safe Haven, “Seniors for Seniors,” Pet Visitation Program, Volunteer Initiatives, and Pet Re-homing Intervention.

Ducks Unlimited – Ducks Unlimited is now the world’s largest and most effective private waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization. DU is able to multilaterally deliver its work through a series of partnerships with private individuals, landowners, agencies, scientific communities and other entities.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 18 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.

World Wildlife Fund – WWF works to help local communities conserve the natural resources they depend upon; transform markets and policies toward sustainability; and protect and restore species and their habitats. Our efforts ensure that the value of nature is reflected in decision-making from a local to a global scale.

International Fund for Animal Welfare – The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. 

Grinning like the village idiot…

OK, so here I am back after a delightful, if short, four-day weekend. I mostly tuned out any form of news, avoided Twitter, and landed on Facebook only sporadically – air dropping in to post occasional memes, but not doing much scrolling. In short, it was really kind of delightful. I’m quite sure there’s a lesson there, if I’m willing to take heed of it. Steering mostly clear of news and social media is good for your mental health. Who knew, right?

I’ve often wondered why people who are obviously stupid wander through life so often grinning like the village idiot. I can only speculate based on my limited evidence, that perhaps ignorance really is bliss and that’s not just something people say. Going about without a thought in your head or a worry in your heart is undeniably freeing. It’s not so much that I didn’t care what was happening in the world as it was that I just didn’t know. I’m feeling surprisingly ok with that.

The first thing I did when I trundled to my desk this morning was tee up Drudge. Finding it plastered with reports of China’s rising protests, Donald Trump in general, the Republican Party continuing to form a circular firing squad, Elon continuing to be Elon, and Russia, as always, doing Russian shit. If that’s what I missed out on across the four days of Thanksgiving, I have to ask if I really missed anything at all. 

I still don’t expect I’ll ever be able to tune everything out indefinitely. It’s an unhappy side effect of being, at least in some ways, curious about the world. I hope that I can at least be a bit more selective in the future – heading down rabbit holes that are of interest rather than just because they’re there. If the world is determined to burn itself to the ground, I can’t see any good reason I shouldn’t just increasingly allocate my attention to books and animals and smile while everything else does its thing.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I’ve seen recently about 37 iterations of the phrase “If you see someone shoplifting, no you didn’t” floating around social media. I’m forced to wonder, what the actual fuck is wrong with people? But, they say, it’s just stealing from some big faceless corporation. Maybe that’s so, maybe it’s not, but I know that once you make an excuse for some kind of bad behavior, it gets a whole lot easier to do it – and it doesn’t feel like a very long slide between “it’s just Walmart” to “It’s just someone with a big house” or “It’s just someone with a nice car” or “it’s some random person who has something I want.” Your mama raised you better. Or at least she should have. Cloak it in whatever sophistry makes you feel better about yourselves, I guess, but don’t expect me to think a common thief is anything other than what they are.

2. Still waiting. Here we are 8 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published eight weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.

3. For a hot minute there in early September, I really considered hopping a flight to London to join the queue. My long since expired passport left that an unfulfillable pipe dream. I’ve since retrieved my passport from its hidey hole and at least looked at the process for getting a fresh new one issued. I like the idea of getting back to traveling on something like a regular basis – mostly to exotic places with proper castles and good beer. The catch, of course, is even with all the other ducks in a line, I’m not in any way sure I would be able to find someone I 100% trust to take care of my neurotic dog while I was away. The cat and tortoise have proven resilient under someone else’s watchful eye for a few days at a time… but since he came home with me, I haven’t so much as left him in a different room overnight. The separation anxiety is probably as much mine as his. I’m sure I’ll spend the money and get my fancy new document, but whether I’ll ever convince myself to use it is another issue altogether.

Four days…

The two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years are usually the only time during the year I burn off a really big chunk of vacation time all in one sitting. Planning around the other various federal holidays, I’ll manage to sneak in a few week-long blocks, too, but Christmas is always the big one.

Some of my favorite bits of time off, though, are the stretched long weekends. Either extend a 3-day weekend or slip a day of leave in between a Tuesday or Thursday holiday and its corresponding weekend and hey presto you have yourself a nice mini vacation on the books with very little loss of leave involved. Spread enough of those around through the year and you can almost maintain what few scraps of sanity you’ve got. 

The Thanksgiving 4-day is probably the king of the bunch as far as I’m concerned. Unlike Christmas and its multi-day road stand and immense logistics tail, Thanksgiving politely contains itself to a single day for visiting, enjoying an oversized meal, and getting back home at a reasonable hour to sleep in my own bed. It’s a holiday distilled to its essence.

The three following days of no specified activities are just the sauce on top and I’m 100% here for it.

Long live the 4-day weekend.

Keeping holiday time…

It’s that time of year again. In the last few days of run up to Thanksgiving, it’s obvious that no one’s got their heart in it; Even those that are here aren’t really here. Sure, physically some of us are banging around the office, but everyone is somewhere else in their own mind – tucking in to a proper holiday dinner, Black Friday shopping, or generally being anywhere other than cubicle hell.

Next week everyone will trickle back. There won’t be enough of us to pretend it’s a flood. There’s too much leave to be taken between now and the end of the year. Like dragons, we hoard it just for the joy of seeing that vast pile of time burned in a conflagration roaring across the closing weeks of the year.

Sure, there will still be a few of the bosses who want to pretend that it’s business as usual and everything is getting done. But the rest of us will know better. The five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are a land out of time. To fight against it in any but the most dire circumstances is the height of folly and you’ll never convince me otherwise.

Even now, a few days before Thanksgiving, I can feel the inexorable draw of Holiday Time. And that’s the real magic of the season.

On involuntary expulsion and other treats…

I’ve started the last two weeks with some variety of sickness. I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty much over it. 

This morning, I woke up just shy of 3 AM with that undeniable salivating feeling that what had heretofore been in my stomach was about to make an unruly appearance. Working in my favor was that I eat Sunday dinner at the geriatric hour of 5 PM so there just wasn’t that much to work through. Still, twenty minutes later, with sweat beaded forehead, unwashoutable mouth, and a nose dripping blood, the worst of it was apparently over. The rest of the early morning hours passed uneventfully – if given over to a decidedly unsettled stomach. 

As long as I stay away from the heavy-duty peppers, I usually have a cast iron constitution when it comes to food. I have no idea what may have gotten into me yesterday to light this mess off. There was certainly no unusual or suspect food coming out of the kitchen. The culprit will most likely remain a mystery so long as there’s no encore performances. 

I’ve passed most of the day today feeling somewhere between tired and wiped out – not conventionally sick, which was nice – but dangerously close to toppling over the keyboard and sleeping for hours. Mercifully it was Telework Monday so I didn’t need to make the effort to look even marginally presentable but still managed to keep the bits and bobs running smoothly without slagging off the work on someone else… something that definitely wouldn’t have been the case if I had been expected to appear in cubicle hell personally this morning.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling absolutely ravenous… and am probably going to tempt fate by eating something with more heft than three saltines. Wish me luck.

They’re always self-inflicted…

One of the tasks that more or less defines my job was impossible to do this week until around 10:00 this morning thanks to a bit of software that had been migrated to a new and improved flavor last week and then promptly shit the bed.

Look, I don’t personally care. If Uncle wants me to do the work, he’ll make sure the systems and software all function. I can sit around twiddling my thumbs with the best of them. I am, after all, a highly seasoned bureaucrat. It’s the sort of thing that comes with the territory. 

The only catch is when systems are down for days on end, it tends to create a backlog and then when the boffins over in the IT office get sorted, the whole log falls directly on your head. That’s where we ended up on today – with at least three days of backlogged work in the queue plus whatever extra came in over the side before close of business. 

To at least one person, every bit of it was something ranging between “important” and “urgent.” To me, of course, it’s all just something to blast through as quickly as possible while trying to get about 80% of it tucked into the right places. If I’m being perfectly honest, since I read every single item that passed through my hot little hands today, I can tell you none of it was actually important, let alone urgent. It was mostly the living embodiment of the kind of electronic ephemera the bureaucracy passes around to continue justifying its own existence. It’s the kind of morass you really want to take a bit at a time rather than in anything resembling large chunks. 

It’ll get done – mostly because I don’t particularly want to deal with this particular hot mess again on Monday. It’ll get done, but I’ll piss and moan about it the entire time, because it’s just another wound we inflicted on ourselves for no discernable reason. If that doesn’t define government work, I don’t know what does.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Crud. Whatever standard issue crud I was run down by over the weekend continues to hang on grimly. I’m feeling mostly fine, but I’ve woken up every morning this week with a raw throat and very little voice. It’s not enough to really change anything I need or want to do, but it’s damned annoying. With as many shots as I’ve subjected myself to over the last three years, I feel like having one of them be the cure for the common cold really isn’t that big an ask.

2. Rumors. Having been moved away from my home town for going on 23 years, sometimes I forget how things work there. One thing that hasn’t changed is the rumor mill. Industries rise and fall, people come and go, but rumors fly as swiftly as they ever did. Here’s the thing… if you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right from a friend of a friend of a friend, maybe just pick up the phone or tap that message button and ask someone who would know. That way they can confirm, deny, or tell you to mind your own damned business. Though, I suppose that has significantly less entertainment value.

3. Still waiting. Here we are 7 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published seven weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.