What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The help. OK, so here’s the thing… There’s a point in the life of a project when it is no longer a good idea to throw additional bodies at the problem. Two or three months ago, when I started asking for specific assistance was the time to allocate resources. Ten days before the light turns green and this things has to work is not the time to offer up “whatever help you need.” In fact adding new people at this point is pretty much only going to slow things down and make everything harder to do. We have long since crossed the line of departure after which I will either be able to manhandle this shitshow across the finish line myself or it will collapse in a catastrophic and spectacularly public manner. There really is no third option now.

2. The National Capital Region. Loosely defined for my purposes as the District and the counties of Maryland and Virginia abutting the federal enclave, the area usually makes my list because of their abysmal ability to deal with even the most well forecast snowfall. This week they make the list because those feds operating in and around the NCR have gotten themselves a “free” day off tomorrow. I get the logic of not wanting a few hundred thousand workers coming into the city when a million or so people are swamping the place for the inauguration, but I want a day off too damnit. Back to back three-day weekends would have been perfect.

3. Due dates. Here in the land of making things more difficult than they need to be, we call due dates “suspenses.” These suspenses are what tells us how long we have to work on various action items. The idea is simple enough. The problem is the near universal belief that it’s wrong and immoral to send anything out “before its suspense.” The very idea seems asinine to me. My intent, every single day, is to get things off my desk and on to someone els’s as quickly as quality allows. Hanging on to stuff just because it isn’t due yet has got to be one of the most patently ridiculous things that happens on a regular basis… Which is really saying something because we are full to the rafters with people doing absolutely ridiculous things.

Inmate Manning…

Inmate Manning was arrested for and convicted of one of the most grievous breaches of national security ever committed by a single individual. Inmate Manning was was accused and convicted of violating the espionage act and sundry other charges for making public 750,000 military and diplomatic documents. The inmate may have been convicted of espionage, but in my mind those actions are nothing less than treason. I can’t imagine a crime more vile or a creature so loathsome than a traitor.

Even more appalling, of course is that after serving only seven years Inmate Manning was granted clemency by the outgoing administration. It seems the inmate couldn’t even manage to find the personal fortitude to serve the time for the acts admittedly committed. It was clemency offered by and accepted from an administration that’s spent the last few months raising three kinds of hell about foreign influence on American elections, freeing known terrorists from confinement, and and generally leaking like a sieve.

This… “person”… betrayed the United States of America, put American lives at risk overseas, and was belatedly rewarded for the effort. I’d dearly love to say I’m surprised, but it feels ever more like business as usual in a world where up is down and good is evil.

What I do…

I often comment that it’s awfully hard to explain exactly what I do on a daily basis without the aid of PowerPoint. It’s usually said with my tongue firmly inserted in my cheek. Today, of course, was the exception in which the joke was on me (more so than usual). As it turns out, not only do I need PowerPoint to explain what I do, PowerPoint is becoming what I do to almost the exclusion of all other things.

Yes, today was that annual day of days when as I had the fantastic opportunity to lead a small group in proofreading well over 400 individual slides. I got to evaluate them for spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, style, contrast, proper use of the template, correct branding, and generally to make recommendations to make these 400-odd slides more presentable to the general public.

It’s horrifying that in 2017 that’s even a job people need to do… and all the more horrific because it happens to be my job in this instance. If you’ve never had the experience of hating yourself and every other living thing on the planet, I strongly recommend reserving a 700-seat auditorium, dragging a half dozen people with you, and taking four or five hours to comb through someone else’s PowerPoints to find all the places where there are two spaces instead of one or where the contrast of white on gray text just isn’t clear enough. If you get through the experience without your eyes bleeding or deciding that the voices in your head really don’t want you to “kill, kill, kill,” you’re a candidate for sainthood.

Spectacle…

While the airwaves are filled with commentators, opinion makers, protestors, and politicians both for and against, the one certainty is that in just about 87 hours President-Elect Donald Trump is going to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United
States. Baring something unprecedented and Inauguration 2005.jpgunforeseen, he will be president, notwithstanding the calls of “not my president,” “not your president,” whatever. He’s going to be sworn and take office. Whether you voted for him or not, whether you find him appealing or appalling, whether you march in protest or toast the victory, this inauguration will roll forward with every bit of pomp and ceremony officialdom of the United States can muster.

Despite my grave disquiet at being out among large groups of people, I’ve attended two inaugurations. The first, in 2001 was the last staged in the era before “big terror” was an issue. The crowds came and went and security was the occasional glimpse of a rooftop sniper or mounted police officer working through the throng. The second, four years later was the first inauguration of metal detectors, fenced pens, and bomb sniffing dogs. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark.

I can’t imagine a circumstance where I’ll ever attend another inauguration in person. I’ve not got enough patience now for the crowds or the five hundred yard wait to process through security. Sill, though, it’s one of those uniquely American experience I’m glad I’ve had. Standing on The Mall, half frozen, the 21-gun salute booming in your chest, the simple and utterly remarkable act of a peaceful transfer of power, and the sense that what you’ve just been a small part of is something historic is a moment that sticks with you.

We here in this happy land may have thrown off the cloak of monarchy in our long ago fit of revolutionary anger. The inauguration of our president, though, is one of those rare moments in the life of the republic when we give ourselves over fully to the purely ceremonial; when we celebrate the office if not the man. It’s really something to see and an American experience worth having, regardless of party affiliation.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Facebook live video. I get it, Zuckerberg. You did a neat thing and can push live video direct to my phone. That’s nifty. But really what I need my social media to do is compliment my daily activities, not attempt to hijack and monopolize them. One of the reasons I still like Facebook is it isn’t time dependent. I can check my news feed periodically throughout the day, check responses to comments, laugh at a few cat pictures, and then move on. Getting 20 notices an hour that friends and pages I follow “went live” isn’t helping. Thank God now that it’s become a thing you did at least give us a toggle switch to make it go away.

2. Rescheduling. If you have a meeting set up with one of the gods on Olympus and the date and time of that meeting gets changed three times in as many days, you know all you need to know about the priority of the effort in which you are engaged. Look, I’m perfectly fine being a low priority, but it would be helpful to know that well in advance so I can allocate my own time spent working on a particular project appropriately.

3. You and the team. I got an email a few days ago asking for “me and my team” to review something. While it’s adorable that anyone things that my work output is the collective group effort of some mythical team, it’s just me down here banging shit out every day. Those reports you’re getting, those briefings you’re reading, those endless meetings being attended, that’s me. It’s not a vast team of people coordinating this jackassery. I’m an army of one down here in the belly of this particular beast. However, if you do indeed believe this product to be the work of a team, I believe it’s high time we started talking about a step increase and a title bump.

To stave off the madness…

I learned something new today. Well, it wasn’t really new, but it’s something I had completely forgotten. It seems if you play really pretty bad music from the early 1990s at as high a level as your radio will manage, and keep just the right pace to maintain a healthy dose of highway noise, you can reach a kind of nirvana. Just before your ears start bleeding there will be such a clash of sound flooding into your head that it will push out every other coherent though. More importantly it will silence, at least temporarily, that part of your brain that keeps telling you to cash it all in, sell it all off, drive to nowhere, get a shit job that requires no skill or independent though, and spend the rest of your days reading every book in the public library of whatever small town you end up in.

The only side effect is a blinding headache and inability to hear anything below a dull roar. Whatever it takes to stave off the madness one more day, I suppose.e

A time and a place…

Someone once said “There’s a time and a place for everything.” Apparently it was true enough that everyone around him started saying it too. Maybe it it. What nobody ever mentioned, though, is that if there’s a time and place for everything, there’s a corresponding time and place which is not for a thing. It’s worth trying to bear in mind, really, because you see the time and the place to tell me that the thing I’ve been working on all day “isn’t right” is not 15 minutes before the close of business. That’s especially true when I’ve been doing everything besides begging for guidance for months now.

All I’ve ever asked for is someone to tell me what the objective is – what they want the end result to look like. With that key piece of information, I can bend the world to fit that image. Without it, I’m just flailing around making shit up as we go along. As another old saw goes, “when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

I’ll just have to brace myself for the inevitable shitshow and mandatory ass chewing tomorrow… because Lord knows it’s always the time and place for that.