Driving long distances by yourself tend to lend itself to thinking deeply about things that usually don’t occupy much time. It occurred to me yesterday that I’ve officially lived here in Memphis for three years now. Of course I’ve really been here about six months longer than that, but for purposes of keeping the official record, I’ve decided not to count time spent living in a hotel in that figure. Buying a house seems to be the definitive announcement that you have arrived somewhere and are digging in for the long fight. The ironic thing is that I really never had any intention of staying here as long as I have. I had planned on coming to Memphis, picking up a promotion or two, making a quick buck on a house that should appreciate, and heading back to the DC area in a year or two and get back to my life. The first part of that plan worked out fairly well at least.
The recession and housing collapse have seen to it that the second part of the plan wouldn’t work out as I had envisioned. And, as usual, something unexpected happened… I got comfortable here. That’s not to say that I love Memphis as that would be an outright lie. Memphis is a necessary evil much like every other city I’ve ever lived or worked in. But the ridiculously low cost of living, relative ease of getting around, and ability to get “back east” within a day’s drive or a three hour flight have really made me question whether I’m willing to go back to DC… and the two bedroom condo and three hour round trip commute that I would find there. The fact is that I rather like getting to the house 30-minutes after leaving the office.
I dearly miss the proximity to power that you can only find in DC and given my druthers, Memphis would have a more sophisticated feel and figure out a way to get itself unstuck from 1953, but for the foreseeable future, I think I’ve slowly come to accept that I’m going to be here… Until something comes along back east that’s just too good to pass up. So if anyone up there is in need of a slightly used logistician/process improver/policy writer/strategist let me know.
Family time is a good thing. It’s especially good when you live 900 miles away and don’t get to see them as often as you’d like. The trouble is balancing quality time versus quantity time, particularly when you’re use to living alone and doing everything on your own schedule. I love my family dearly, but I think I’ve reached that tipping point where the best thing to do is get out on my own for a little while, decompress from the just-passed holiday and unwind a bit. Now to find a place in Allegany County that knows how to make a rum punch.
Traveling with dogs is always an adventure. Watching southern dogs try to come to terms with snow is really something you need to see in person to fully appreciate, though. I’m happy to report that this Christmas Eve hasn’t been too traumatic for either the dogs or for my mother this year. In fact, I think she’s starting to warm to them a bit as this year they’ve even been allowed into the living room. That’s a real upgrade from last year’s banishment to the kitchen for the duration of the trip. I, of course, am on pins and needles hoping they don’t leave a Christmas surprise to be discovered later. That would surely send us back to square one. At the moment, there’s a fire in the fireplace, the dogs are curled up at my feet, and mother hasn’t threatened to toss the whole lot of us to the basement. So far so good.
In the last two weeks I’ve probably seen two or three dozen cars with antlers sticking out their windows and red tennis balls wired to their grills. I know opinions are like certain anatomical regions, but really those don’t make you or your car look festive. They make you look like a giant asshat. How on earth did you look at those in the store and think “Hey, that would be a good idea?” One more reason to question the health on western civilization.
It’s that time of year again when the pace of things at the federal government grinds to a halt and nearly everyone with more that four or five years on the job has visions of the next two weeks off dancing in their heads. It’s use-or-lose leave season in the federal government and that means for all practical purposes, the bureaucracy ceases to function in any meaningful way. The burning of excess leave is one of the great traditions of government employees and I’m happy to be partaking once again this holiday season.
Occasionally, though, you run into a problem during this time of year; an issue that someone thinks just can’t wait until after the start of the new year. That’s when the endless round of phone tag and a steady stream of email interrupts what you were sure was going to be two weeks of rest and relaxation. There’s really not a tactful way to tell people to bugger off, but I’m going to try my best to do it for two weeks starting tomorrow afternoon around 3:30.
As a rule, I do my damndest to avoid contacting people when they are on leave, If I drop them an email, it’s for something they’ll need to know when they get back to the office, not something they should be working on when they are burning vacation time. I’ll never object to answering a few emails here and there or even returning an occasional phone call while I’m gone… But I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m going to spend any more than the barest minimum amount of time thinking about or doing work while I’m gone. So, if you want the cheap and easy answer to your questions, ask me sometime in the next 16 days… or if you want the well-developed and articulated answer, give me a call on January 4th and I’ll give it something close to my full attention.
Until then, I encourage those calling on official business to please leave a message and I’ll return your call in the order in which it was received… eventually.
When i think I’m right, I may have a bit of a tendency to dig in my heels. When I get challenged on it, I have a propensity to get downright nasty. And occasionally, I’m willing to go so far as to write proverbial checks that I’m not particularly going to want to cash later. I’ve had alot of line for a long time and a natural instinct to fight to keep every inch of it when it gets reeled in a bit. Maybe someday I’ll learn to pick my fights a little better. But for now, it seems the best possible outcome is simple resolution… And the chance to pick other fights on other days.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about the Kindle, Nook, and various other e-book readers… and I’ve decided that I like real books. I like the way they feel in your hand and the way the paper smells. I like that there is something tactile about reading a book; that the binding has just the right amount of give. I like that a book is a physical manifestation of the knowledge printed between the covers.
I know that I’m about as big a fan of technology as anyone out there, but I just can get behind the whole e-book thing. I’m ok with a cell phone being the size of a business card. I’m ok that my laptop has far more computing power than all the moon missions combined. I have a terminal addiction to the latest and greatest bright, shiny, and new technology… except for this one thing. So that’s my line in the sand. I’m sticking with books made from paper. It’s been good enough for everyone since the dawn of civilization… so I guess that makes me an old fashioned guy.
Some days are good, some are bad, but I’ve found that most of them tend to fall somewhere in the middle. On the good days it’s easy to forget that the bad ones are out there and to not even think of the mediocre ones. Today was one of the good days. Projects are moving along, there was no dust-up at the last minute, no insane requirements dispatched by email at the last possible minute. It wasn’t quite as easy to savor as the good ones have been in the past, because I know there’s a bad one out there waiting for me… and I know it’s more likely than not that I’m going to take a beating. For now, I’ll enjoy the good days when I can get them, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the horizon.
Writing is an act of self-revelation. Unfortunately, I’m at a bit of a point where I’m not positioned to reveal much of what’s going on behind the scenes just now. Perhaps someday it will come out in the special edition “unreleased blogs,” but for the time being mum’s the word. I don’t like being this quiet for this long, particularly on issues that are impacting everything else that I do… and I certainly don’t like how much it impacts my ability to find something to write about other than the issue that’s embargoed. For the time being, I’m going to try to be content with getting my thoughts together in other venues and preparing as best I can with as much information as I can get together. Suffice to say for the moment that other concerns are monopolizing my time. It will be a happy thing when this is no longer the case. I want swift resolution and to get the issue behind me as quickly as possible. In the interim, I’ll keep posting as the spirit moves me, but keep your expectations under control, as I don’t think there will be an epic rant posted any time in the near future. Here’s hoping January will be a better month than December has been.
One of the great aspects of my job is it has allowed me to see places and things I would have never seen otherwise. The down side of that, of course, is that you sometimes have very little control over where you go or when you go there. I had already planned on being back on the greater DC/Maryland area for the better part of a week for Christmas. Now, thanks to Uncle Sam, I’ll be spending next week in Northern Virginia as well. It’s not that I have any problem with being there, but it would just be nice if I weren’t going to be making two 1800 mile round-trips in the next three weeks.
The good news is that I’ve got a posh hotel in Old Town within a block-and-a-half radius of two of my favorite Irish pubs. I guess life could be worse. If anyone’s looking for me, there’s a fair chance you’ll find me at Pat Troy’s! I might even manage to get some work done while I’m in town.