Starry night…

Between the light diffusing from Wilmington and Baltimore I’m a little too boxed in by sprawl to have ideal nighttime sky viewing conditions. Sometimes, though, when it’s cold and the air is clear you get a glimpse of what it must have been like standing on these shores a few hundred years ago – when these lands were the outpost of civilization. 

On nights like tonight, if you’re lucky and your timing is just right, you take the dogs out, happen to look up at just the right angle to marvel again at the constellations you learned as a kid, and are rewarded with a shooting star passing across Orion for your troubles. It’s awfully hard not to appreciate the moments like that. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Junkies. A 17 year old addict stabbed a woman in the neck at one the county’s fine retail establishments Tuesday morning. By Tuesday night local social media pages were filled with calls to pity the poor addict. Far fewer mentioned his victim. Addiction may well be a disease but at some point little Johnny Eightball made a decision to give it a try. All the “he was raised rights” and “he is usually such a nice young mans” in the world doesn’t change the fact that his original sin was a decision not an immaculate victimhood. If Jeff were king for a day the prescription for what ails twatwaffles like young Johnny Eightball wouldn’t be zen meditation, three hots and a cot, or sympathetic understanding that’s for goddamned sure.

2. LED bulbs that “pause” before lighting up. As the 64 watt can lights in the kitchen burn out, I’m replacing them with comparable LED bulbs. Other than the living room reading lamp, these are probably the bulbs in the house that get the most daily use because I like excessive light when fiddling around in the kitchen. Mostly it’s been a happy transition to LED… except for this last one. Where all the other bulbs exactly replicate the feel of “old fashioned” filament bulbs, this latest one has a noticeable, and increasingly annoying “waiting period” before it comes on after I flip the switch. Yes, I know, it’s a minor first world problem, but seeing that I live in the first world, that’s to be expected… so now I’ll go off to Lowe’s and buy another $12 bulb in the hopes that I just got a bum the last time around.

3. Deceiving looks. There’s a tree still lying across the sidewalk and partially into the road just a few dozen yards from my driveway. To anyone driving past it would look for all intents and purposes as if I were the irresponsible homeowner who was leaving it lay there. Of course being the anal retentive jerk I am, I had a full survey done when I bought Fortress Jeff and know exactly where my responsibilities begin and end. The tree in question is without a doubt something that is squarely within the bailiwick of my neighbor to the northeast. Looks are deceiving… and just now the deception is making me look like an asshat.

The price or: Being caught at my desk…

Nothing good ever starts with the boss coming by asking “How busy are you this week?”

The answer, the answer I should have given, true or not, is “I’m busier than a one-armed paper hanger, sir… Doing great things for God and country.”

Instead the answer was “Meh, what do you need?” I made the cardinal mistake of showing even the least semblance of interest. I made a mistake and the consequences were swift and certain.

One little slip up, friends, is precisely how you get yourself drug into the middle of a three and a half hour meeting on Friday that up until just a few minutes before was none of your damned business.

I’ve lead the internet in warning future bureaucrats about the dangers inherent in volunteerism. In my career, I’ve never been rewarded for putting up my hand and asking for more work. Although it leads the list by a fairly wide margin, volunteerism isn’t the only form of creeping workload adjustment that can ruin your day.

While I didn’t quite volunteer today, I did present myself as a convenient target of opportunity. Just being at the wrong place at the wrong time can result in two reports and a half a day worth of briefings ending up slipping from someone else’s pile to yours before you even realize what you’ve done.

“Surprise!” Says the universe. “That nice easy week you were planning… the one with the low pressure slide into the weekend? Yeah, you can go ahead and forget all about that.” The universe is a real son of a bitch like that.

That’s what I get for being caught at my desk. I know better. And now I’m going to pay the price for not turning that knowledge into action.

Mister Ed…

It’s not exactly a secret that I’m not a fan of large groups of people – or of people in general. My misanthropic tendencies run pure as a mountain stream and remain one of my most consistent personality traits over time.

Mister Ed.jpgDespite my misgivings about people and groups, I’m a reasonable enough adult human being to know that both are sometimes unavoidable. While social engagements aren’t something I seek out, they are a fact of life from time to time. In those circumstances, I’m perfectly capable of behaving myself in polite company, of making small talk, and generally being a pleasant enough human being.

So you see, what I mean when I say “I don’t like people,” is I don’t go out of my way to find them, but I’m perfectly aware that they are a simple fact of modern life with which I have learned to contend. I learned a long time ago that most people need far more social interaction than I do in order to feel some sense of community or fulfillment. I’ve made peace with it. Mostly.

I’m never going to be the guy who wants to be the center of attention at a party of social event. Like Mister Ed, I’ll likely never speak unless I have something to say. Others may be more tempted to flap their gums to fill in awkward silences. That should in no way be mistaken to mean that I’m going to stand in a corner looking surly for the duration of the event. Just because I don’t usually want to doesn’t mean I can’t play nicely with others when the need arises.

Sometimes, you see, circumstances demand that we do that which we would not otherwise do, not because it’s how we’d rather spend our time, but because it’s something important to the person asking us to tag along. That said, I find myself growing less and less accommodating by the minute. If I’m going to be condemned in either case, I’d rather be condemned for what I am rather than what I am not.

Work is work…

I’m still settling in to the whole idea of working from home. Not schlepping through the pre-dawn darkness to sit in a badly lit room with thirty other people doesn’t really suck. I like the view and my coworkers are appreciative of ear rubs and the occasional milkbone. Honestly it’s a whole lot of up side and not much down, at least so far.

It’s a learning process for sure and what I’ve learned this week is:

1. Dogs make the best coworkers. They’re content to find a convenient spot on the floor, preferably in the sun, and stay put until you want them for something.

2. Cats are attention-seeking little hoodlums who want to interrupt you 47 times a day. So basically, working while a cat is in residence is a lot like having actual human coworkers.

3. Happy hour begins promptly at 4:00. Getting that tasty beverage to start the evening an hour earlier is an awfully effective way to put a fork in Monday.

4. There’s something to be said for a lunch that doesn’t come out of a cooler bag / paper bag or from the hands of a sandwich artist.

5. The availability and freshness of the coffee / tea selection is way, way better. It’s hard to underestimate just how much better life is when you can fresh brew all day long.

I wish I could offer up something a little more insightful, but work is work no matter where it’s getting done. The best we can seem to hope for is improving the venue where we spend our eight hours.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Appointments. Look, I’m the customer. I’m calling your business for an appointment. When I tell you that I don’t want an appointment after 4:00 the next three times you try to give me should not be after 4:00. When I tell you Thursdays are not a good day for me, how about not offering up times on Thursday. I’m trying to give you a not insignificant amount of money to provide a service. The least you could reasonably be expected to do is make the transaction slightly less onerous.

2. Being a square peg fitted into a round hole. There are many subject matter experts in my building. I’m not one of them. My skills don’t lie in my technical expertise. They do, however, lie in making sure the people with the right skill sets all show up to the same place in the often vain hope that something might get accomplished by the time it’s over. I’m a facilitator. When Person A has a problem, I make the appropriate introduction to Person B and then stand back and let the magic happen. I know just enough about the details for my opinions on them to be wrong at least as often as they’re right. That’s why I don’t sell myself as the resident expert… so when you try to cram me into that role because I happen to be available in the moment, don’t be surprised when things don’t go exactly how you planned.

3. Acceptance. I’m an Anglophile from way back. If it weren’t for their ridiculously high taxation and periodic dalliances with socialism, I’d strongly consider England a strong contender as a place I wouldn’t mind ending up in retirement. I follow a number of official UK government social media feeds which have been filled in the recent days with pictures of Her Majesty The Queen and assorted members of the Royal Family distributing knighthoods. I’m starting to come to the grim acceptance that the clock may be running out on my chance to ever make it onto the Honours List.

Lessons on a snowy day…

Yesterday wasn’t the first snowy day I’ve had here on the homestead. Compared to last winter’s big storm, this one hardly rated a blip, except for the part where the last half of the storm turned to ice. It’s pretty to look at, makes for some interesting watching the dogs try to find traction, and cuts down trees and utility poles like nobody’s business. It’s that last bit that served to set the stage for the most important of the day’s lessons.

I’ve always known my AT&T wireless signal at home was spotty at best. Since I don’t make all that often, this fact was largely hidden by my home Wi-Fi picking up the slack for data purposes. It’s a system that works well enough under normal operating conditions. With Comcast having gone MIA due to any number of local lines being down, operating conditions yesterday were less than ideal. By “less than,” I mean that my fancy new iPhone was utterly and completely useless as a means of communicating for almost the entire duration of the cable outage.

Also learned yesterday was the fact that every penny I spent installing and maintaining my generator was money well spent. Twenty seconds after the lines came down, it roared to life and kept the furnace blower blowing, the well and sump pumps pumping, the dryer drying, and the lights lit. I cooked a normal dinner and settled in to watch The Hunt for Red October and then Master and Commander… while occasionally seeing candles dot the windows of the house across the street. It kept right on chugging through 18 hours without a moment’s complaint. With that I am well satisfied.

Aside from a few other minor details, yesterday’s experience was one up and one down. Over the next few weeks, I know I need to beef up my communications capability. That’s good info to have before I find myself in a position of really needing it. Once the ice melts off and I get a decent day, I also owe the generator an oil change and a pat on the proverbial head.