Searching…

People search for some really disturbing things on the internet, but I’ve found it curious that the most consistent search that brings this blog to the surface is the simple phrase “teamwork sucks,” which was the title of a post I wrote last fall during the epic battle of wills between me and the Army’s educational system. While that battle has chilled into what’s likely to descend into a long cold war, the post lives on… and gets a few hits a week because apparently, teamwork really does suck. I like the irony of something that only lasted a few weeks now seems to have achieved a degree of immortality because of Google… and some proportion of the populace that is bent towards misanthropic tendencies. That makes me happy inside.

In a related topic, I noticed that we’re starting to work our way up the Google search results list. There’s a pesky orthopedic surgeon with whom I share a name who is currently standing in the way of reaching the top spot. That’s not a battle I really want to take on yet… The time, effort, marketing, and endless tagging seem to be beyond me at the moment. Sure, it’s purely an ego thing… but is there really anything wrong with wanting to be the first thing Google thinks of when someone “mentions” your name?

A labor of like…

Writing a blog, at least the kind that I keep here, isn’t really all that difficult. It’s relatively easy to churn out copy that’s full of personal opinion and conjecture on whatever topic happens to strike your interest. The real challenge comes when you want to take you musings in a more focused direction. God love ’em, I don’t know how these more professional blogger keep up that schedule. Fortunately, my little slice of the internet here isn’t going in one of those more focused directions. The biggest challenge I’ve found recently is that I seem to have lost many of my tags when I brought my original posts over from Blogger. Over the last few days I’ve been trying to update those and probably managed to wade through about 40-50 of them.

Cataloging, indexing, and tagging is not something that’s absolutely necessary, but it’s good policy if you’re planning on staying active with writing or even if you just want to be able to find posts you wrote several years ago. The process of actually fixing it when those things go horribly, horribly wrong, however, is painfully mind numbing. I’ve probably got another few hours of tagging and categorizing left before things look up. Thank God the site itself is pre-designed and essentially self maintaining… How does anyone have the time to maintain these things and do anything else?

Priorities…

A lot of life is about setting priorities. What things are important enough for your attention and which simply need to fall in the “nice to do, but never gonna happen” category. In a perfect world, these priorities would be balanced and when one was finished, one would begin. In reality those priorities almost always conflict with one another and compete for status as the first among equals.

Priorities have been my issue lately, or more specifically, having (or being told to have) to many of them has been my issue. From the purely intellectual point of view, it’s easy to understand that some things are more important than others. And sometimes many important things happen at once. Frederick the Great is believed to have said, “He who defends everything, defends nothing.” Put another way, when everything is your #1 priority, nothing is ever treated like #1.

I’ve got broad enough shoulders to handle anything that gets thrown at me. I can shift gears on the fly and very rarely get intimidated by issues or people, no matter how ponderous they may be. I can do a great many things with a high degree of skill and certainty that they’re going to get done right. The only thing I can’t do is take care of them all at once.  Having ten major projects open and (theoretically) running at a time is not a recipe for success when you assign them to .73% of the staff – yes that is ¾ of one percent. It is, however, a recipe for getting alot of long-term projects completely derailed for the sake of defusing a few short-term crises.

With that said, effective immediately, I’m requesting a change in my official designation to:

Chief of PowerPoint Operations, Questionable Metrics, Random Tasks, and Odd Jobs; Defender of the Sacred Website; Keeper of the Institutional History; Builder of the Mighty Quadcharts; High Executor of Monthly Reports; and Unquestioned Lord of Other Duties as Assigned.

Yes, I think that will do nicely… Now to order new business cards.

Accessorizing…

The problem with being an early adopter of any technology is that when the long march towards launch day finally ends, there are precious few accessories available. It seems that even the manufacturer has trouble make sure the product and its “corporate” accessories manage to ship at the same time. Want a case for that nice new $500 toy? Yeah… that’s gonna be a few weeks. Sure, you can pick up an extra charger or some really cheap-looking “sleeves” obviously designed for other devices, but none of the really good stuff ever seems to be ready for the big debut.  It’s not an insurmountable issue given the number of sleeves and cases laying around this place from electronics past… Just one of the small things you keep hoping the manufacturer would get right this time. I suppose there will be plenty of time to fully accessorize over the summer when production is really rolling. Once iPad is here, I’ll have a few weeks of tireless fiddling to figure out what my usage patterns are and what type of accessories I really need versus the ones that would just end up looking good in a drawer collecting dust.

Good news, bad news…

The s0-called healthcare bill is the most sweeping piece of legislation that has been put before Congress at least in my lifetime. The good news is that people who have never been interested in politics are starting to pay attention. Of course they’re only paying attention to this one issue and it’s impossible to guess how long they’ll stay focused after the vote takes place. Given our somewhat limited national attention span, I’m not overly optimistic that this moment represents a watershed change in people’s focus. By the time the next election rolls around, how many people who are outraged today do you think will even remember that it’s time to go vote? Maybe a few more than average. Maybe

The bad news, of course, is that House leadership would never bring this up for a floor vote unless they thought they had the numbers to carry the day… So I’m guessing that by sometime this afternoon, the healthcare landscape, our future debt, and the amount of taxes we are going to be expected to pay for years to come will look very, very different. I hope I’m wrong about this. I hope that some in the majority party will have a moment of conscience and break with their leadership at the last minute. It wouldn’t quite be miracle status, but it would be a body blow to this administration’s agenda and might serve to slow the machinery of governmental mission-creep a bit.

As a total aside, there’s a great deal of noise being made this weekend about the “deem and pass” and other intricacies of bill-passing that were never discussed in your civics lesson on how a bill becomes a law. The bottom line is that there are many, many different ways that a bill can be passed and they are all perfectly legal. These methods are used by both sides whenever they are in power. The rules of the House are not really about Democrat or Republican. They’re about power – Who has it and how they’re able to use it. That’s the short way of saying, don’t make the mistake of thinking one party is more idealistic or good-hearted than the other. Given the opportunity, both of them will use whatever levers of power are within their grasp to push their agenda through the system.

For now, we watch and we wait. This afternoon should make for some of the best made-for-TV politico-drama we are ever likely to see.

Counting down…

The countdown is on for the second of what has every likelihood of becoming an annual trek across land and sea to the beautiful island of St. Thomas. It’s not a party mecca like Cancun or a mega-resort like Atlantis, but if all you really want to do is sit on a secluded beach with a stack of good books you’ve been meaning to read or belly up to the pool bar for a few rounds of Cruzan rum punch, this place fills the bill very, very nicely. For five days at least, the only plan is to eat well, drink well, sleep well, and repeat as necessary.

If I’m feeling adventurous, it’s a night of bar-hopping in Red Hook or the search for duty free local booze and rum cakes in Charlotte Amalie. For the record, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort isn’t anything flashy and it’s about as far from the Ritz as you can get… literally and figuratively. It’s low key and a little dated but the beach is only three steps outside the room, the tiki bar is maybe 30 paces past that, and they have one of the best steaks I’ve had anywhere in my travels at their Lobster Grill. If your expecting luxury, I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you really just don’t want to give a damn about anything, this is the place for you.

One of the real perks of the USVI is that it’s a “domestic” trip. That means no passport necessary. You’re not going to be subject to foreign laws, you’re not going to get caught between warring drug cartels, and if the worst does happen, you’re still protected by American law. Running into those issues has never been an issue for me, but knowing it’s different-but-not-foreign is actually a little comforting. For all good things, there is the inevitable down side. In this case the first of them was the gang-rape I was subjected to at the hands of Delta Airlines. I won’t go into details, but will say that my AmEx now has a smoking hole in it thanks to two tickets from Memphis.

The problem with the travel bug is that it can be a painfully expensive disease, especially when you’re use to doing your traveling on Uncle Sam’s credit card. Because it’s an island, anything that can’t be grown natively has to be brought in by air or sea… and that means everything is expensive. The all-inclusive package mitigates that for dinner and booze, but if you want a snack “on the economy” you’re going to pay big for the privilege. In most places in the Caribbean, tourists benefit from a relatively strong dollar when compared to the local currency. Since St. Thomas is a US Territory, their currency is the dollar. What that mostly means is that you’re not going to get the bang for the buck you would get going elsewhere. For me, the few extra dollars are offset by the fact that everyone speaks English (more or less). You can still find some deals at the duty free shops and if you’re planning to keep most of your gluttony on the resort, you won’t spend that much anyway. Long story short… I’m not quite to the point of counting days, but Mid-May can’t get here soon enough. I fell better just knowing there’s a mark on the wall out there and that good things are coming.

Something unusual…

Something unusual happened Saturday evening… For the first time in 12 years I ran completely out of Marlboro Lights; none stashed in the freezer, or in the glovebox, or in the pocket of a coat I haven’t worn in a few weeks. I was well and truly out of cigarettes… except for the pack I had left over from my trip to Italy  two years ago and that was stale when I bought it. After two years, I think I can safely label that one for decorative/historical purposes only. I had my Baskin Robins-esk assortment of 32 flavors of cartridges for my e-cig and a just-arrived-in-the-country shipment from my new friends in Sweden, so I wasn’t particularly worried about going into fits before I could get out to the Tiger Mart on Sunday.

Sunday came and went and I went to Kroger to restock the fridge. I filled up the tank at the Tiger Mart. And I was home putting the groceries away before I realized that I had actually forgotten to pick up more smokes. Much to my surprise, this wasn’t cause to immediately drag myself back out of the house. It was more a moment of “ehh, I’ll pick up a pack on my way to work tomorrow.” Tomorrow turned into today and I made it to the office with the help of General Mini Mint portions and realized it was 11:30 before even thinking of taking a smoke break (that’s only really impressive, I suppose if I mention that smoke breaks usually roll around at 8, 9:30, and 11 like clockwork. At that point, I popped a portion of Ettan, took a few pulls on my e-cig, and assumed I’d just pick up a pack on my way home.

Well I’m home now and we’re getting on past bedtime and I’m still out of smokes. That’s not to say that I’m on the wagon. I know that I’m probably always going to be one bad day or even one bad minute from having a cigarette. I’m predisposed towards addictive behaviors and have been for as long as I can remember. I don’t imagine there’s anything that will change that. I won’t delude myself or try to fool anyone into thinking that I’m off the juice. E-cigarettes are basically untested, but hold promise, and Swedish snus, at least in the research available, appears to be a significantly lower-risk alternative to smoking, so I’m still feeding the beast. I’ll wake up tomorrow at the beginning of my third smokeless day. How I end it mainly depends on environmental factors that are beyond my control and my response to those stimuli, which is entirely within my control. It’s good to have options and since cold turkey has never been something within my reach, I’ll happily settle for “safer” (and cheaper doesn’t hurt either).

I know I’m spending alot of time writing about this, but since cigarettes have more or less defined my waking actions and driven my schedule since I was 19, that’s to be expected. It’s a massive change in lifestyle and in though process and I want to capture a permanent record of it as it happens. One thing I promise is that no matter what happens, I’m not going to become a zealot or a crusader. I’ll record my experiences and thoughts, interesting tidbits I pick up along the way, and I’ll report them here. Anyone reading can decide their value or lack thereof for themselves.