What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. “Emergencies”. We’ve been over this before, but it bears repeating. The way people throw around the work “emergency” in the contemporary office is basically laughable. No one is bleeding. No one is about to start bleeding. The word you’re probably looking for most often is “embarrassing” as in you’re about to be embarrassed due to something you did, were supposed to do, forgot about doing. ​Alternately, you might be about to get blasted because of poor decision making skills. In any case, those things might represent a legitimate personal emergency to you, but to the rest of us it’s really just a shrug and a so what. Let’s try to leave the talk of “emergencies” to the times when there really are barbarians at the gate or brass hitting the floor, ok?

2. County taxes. The proposed Cecil County budget for FY18 includes increases in both the real property and income taxes. It’s made all the more noxious because it was proposed by a Republican county executive who ran less than a year ago on a platform of fiscal accountability and no tax increases. I know, lying politician isn’t exactly breaking news. Still, though, I’m left to wonder why at some point it isn’t perfectly acceptable to say that we have X number of dollars to spend against Y number of services and when there’s no additional revenue for new or existing services, some things need to be cut. The politicians first response is always to borrow or tax their way into all the revenue they need instead of being required to live by an actual budget in which they can’t always purchase all the goods and services they’d like to have. In the end the bastards always end up with their hand just a little deeper in our pocket. I suppose that’s just what you get when every level of government desperately wants to buy the love and affection of the voters and seeks ways to be all things to all people.

3. Keeping my head in the game. I’m probably expending at least as much energy just trying to keep my head in the game as I am actually doing any productive work. That doesn’t feel like something that’s going to be sustainable over the long term. It’s easier some days than others, but for the most part by the time mid-afternoon rolls around I’m dumping every bit of available effort into just staying awake and some delusory productive activities. Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to read some of the written products that fly off my desk after 2PM. Unless I absolutely can’t avoid it, I hold them as drafts and then clean them up the next morning when I’m still relatively fresh. It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.

Ask me anything…

​I try my best to keep a pretty extensive list of ideas I want to write about on the sideline just in case I run into one of those bad days when ideas just stop flowing. Over the last few months I’ve been cheating a bit and dragging ideas off the list. I find that quiver becoming uncomfortably empty at the moment and I’d really like to start adding things back to the list of potential topics rather than continuing to draw it down.

You, my dear readers, can do something to help. Although my personal pride would never let me ask anyone for cash donations, I clearly have no shame about asking you to help me out with ideas.

As I do here from time to time I’m opening the doors wide and encouraging you to go ahead and ask me anything. Is there a subject you think I should talk about? Do you want to know my thoughts on man-rompers or fidget spinners? Do you want to know my favorite food, color, and shoe size? I won’t sell this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, but if there’s anything you’ve been dying to know, this would be an awfully good chance to get an answer.

You can leave your questions in a comment here on WordPress, or on Facebook, or Twitter. Since I’ll be focused on answering your questions, that will give me the chance to refill my own pool of ideas, so really everyone wins here. You get the inside scoop about what’s rattling around in my head, I get to sharpen my writing chops on ideas I would otherwise be thinking about, and maybe we all get to learn a little something in the process. Really, what’s not to like about that?

Doing the hard work…

I’m not an expert, not in this field anyway. I am however, due to many years of experience at wading into topic areas where I lack formal education or training, a generalist of remarkably broad scope. I’m good at looking for connections – or for the places where connections should be but aren’t. It’s a knack I have for reading, comprehending, and then synthesizing material into something approximating a coherent and rational bit of information. On my very best day I’m a pretty brilliant analyst. On an average day, I like to think I’m still awfully good, just maybe getting the job done with a little less flourish.

I need to point out in no uncertain terms that what people do with the information once I give it to them isn’t really my field. I’m not a decision maker. I don’t want to be one. What I will do is present you with the best, most coherent information I can pull together in whatever time is allotted for the task. That’s my one iron clad, most absolute guarantee.

Still, though, I need you to always remember one thing. When the information I’m working with is incomplete, wrong, folded, spindled, or mutilated in some way, the results you get are going to be suspect. When the amount of time available doesn’t allow for a full detailed analysis, the results are going to be suspect. Now the good news is I’m always going to present my assessments with those limiting factors highlighted for the world to see. I’m never going to shirk the analysis because it’s too hard, but damned if I can help it when you’re caught up in shitty input leading to shitty results.

Picking your rabbit holes…

Over the last couple of months I’d rather gotten use to Monday being my transition day between weekend and work week. Finding myself spun directly back into the office this week has been something of a shock to the system. Even with the extra day off tagged on to the front end, I wasn’t prepared for the arrival of an unwelcome weekday. I don’t suppose anyone ever is, of course, except maybe those happy few who seem to have been born to do whatever It is they find themselves doing. Then again, I’ve long been of the opinion those people are inherently dangerous and not to be trusted.

There is, however, a long weekend on the horizon… which is important because just now I’m not sure I’m of a mind to have the goal posts set much further away than the next weekend. If I can hit the small targets, the big ones should generally take care of themselves. That’s the theory I’m operating under at any rate if only because they’ll have to tend to themselves until I’ve managed to gin up enough energy to do something else with them.

I’m never quite sure if it’s some general funk in the air or if it’s just me slipping into a periodic low energy mode. In any case these moments rarely make for the best of times as they usually further sour a mood that’s usually less than sunny even on my very best days. That old ebb and flow can be a real bitch sometimes, but after all these years of living inside my own head I know the malaise never lasts long. In a few days at most something will come along to catch my interest and reset the “introspection” switch to neutral. Until then it’s just a matter of selecting the rabbit holes I choose to fall through a bit more selectively than usual.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Over sensitive douchenozzels. Many documents we pass around require some kind of specific coversheet. For years now, hanging on the back wall of all the cubes I’ve inhabited are fictitious versions of these covers, identifying them as coversheets for information that is Stupid, Futile, Bullshit, etc. In the wake of morale hitting rock bottom and starting to dig, it seems that those little bits of paper have now been adjudicated as being “not funny and inappropriate.” I wish more people understood sarcasm. I also wish people were less thin-skinned. Most of all, I wish I didn’t spend five days a week in the company of at least one cowardly douchnozzle whose identity is unknown, because as of this week I know there’s at least one person in that room who can’t be trusted.

2. Cicadas. I found the first evidence of cicadas on the back porch this very morning. The two things that stick with me from the last round of these little beasts being above ground is the unholy amount of noise they generate and a particular chocolate lab who thought they were treats in the wing called forth just for her indulgence. Of course I deny these dogs almost nothing, but watching them chow down on a yard full of bugs is just a bridge too far. I wonder if somewhere on the dark web someone is selling a can of DDT. It would be awfully tempting if I thought that would do the trick.

3. Shopping for clothing. I don’t know that there’s a word in the English language strong enough to describe just how much I hate clothes shopping for myself. It ranks well below tagging along while other people shop for clothes, if that tells you anything about where it falls on the list. There was a time when I would just force myself to physically go to the store and do it. Now, mostly I just go to the closet, find the brand and size of something I have and already like and then order the exact same thing (or as close to it as is currently available) in three or four different colors. I don’t suppose I’ll ever need to wonder why my basic wardrobe hasn’t much evolved since the late 1990s. Still, it’s better than leaving the house for clothing.

Doors are overrated…

In a world where automobile manufacturers chase ever more stringent fleet fuel standards and where soccer moms traded the Suburban for the latest “crossover SUV” (i.e. station wagon), I find very little to get excited over in the average production vehicle. There are a few exceptions and most of them don’t start looking particularly interesting until they are approaching the six-figure price point. Across most product lines, one sedan or coupe is pretty much only a few pieces of molding different from the next.

I’ve long suspected that sameness elsewhere is what brings me back around to the Jeep when it’s time to find a new vehicle. Sure, the edges have been softened. There’s a lot of plastic cowling where there used to be just tube steel. It’s got power locks and windows and a staggering amount of electronic toys in the dash. At its heart though, Chrysler has resisted the siren’s song of making the Jeep into just another crossover with a nameplate that use to mean something. Thank God for that.

One of the great joys of a Jeep is that you really can strip it down to the essentials – and engine, four wheels, and someplace to sit. In fact, once you’ve pulled the top away and unbolted the doors, you’re not so much getting into your Jeep as you are riding on top of it. All the while, everything rattles, you notice an unaccounted for whistle of wind crossing some newly exposed surface, every pothole rattles up your spine. You’ll slip out from behind the wheel knowing, feeling, that you were driving the machine instead of just being a passenger who occasionally made minor course corrections.

Man, stripped down and jamming through the gears, it’s a thing of real beauty… and only adds to my firm belief that doors are largely overrated (when the weather is good and you’ve got reasonably secure parking).

Marking the inflection points…

We all have the important dates that mark inflection points in our lives. Since I’ve dispensed with the standard dates of importance like anniversaries or children’s birthdays, my set of dates is, unsurprisingly, different than most. My dates largely revolve around the times where I have extracted myself from situations that for one reason or another had become simply untenable.

The 16th of May stands far and away as the most important of these inflection points – not only because it’s the most recent, but because it marked what was probably the most trajectory altering. You see, despite all protests otherwise, I’m of a type that thrives best when planted in its native soil. Carry me too far away from the brackish water of the Chesapeake and I wilt, my abilities waning. Oh, I can function if needs be, but the end results will never be as good as they might have been in other circumstances.

Tennessee was supposed to be my grand adventure – undertaken earnestly and with all the best intentions. Four years later it ended up being not much more than a mire, determined to drag me down and beat me. That end came closer than I want to admit – I’m still rattled at the toll in proverbial blood and actual treasure that particular experience extracted from me.

The Glorious 16th of May, though. That date that cleared the decks and let me begin the process of getting back to my best self. There are days that sometimes make it hard to remember that I’ve come to my better place. Occasionally those days are more frequent than others. Six years on and it still feels like my very best self-extraction… and it still feels a whole lot like it happened yesterday.