Chet Arthur…

Once a year, I order a set of “proof” silver coins, a proof silver eagle, and a 1/10 ounce gold eagle from the US Mint. I don’t think of them as an investment so much as I think of them as pretty objects that I enjoy collecting. Maybe they’re worth marginally more now than they were when I bought them, maybe they’re not. Either way.

I appreciate the fine work the mint does. Their process for engraving and stamping coins is pretty much the pinnacle of an art form that’s been around since the beginning of recorded history and will probably be dead before the century is out. My level of appreciation, however, does not go so far as making me desirous of ordering a Chester A. Arthur Presidential $1 Coin 100-coin Bag. As impressive a specimen as I’m sure they are, I don’t have a clue what I, or anyone else, would do with a 100 count big o’ mint-y fresh Chet Arthurs… Though I have to give credit to them for smacking a label on the bag and marketing them as a collector’s items. I guess that’s what happens when you wake up one morning and realize that the money-spending public doesn’t want a dollar coin any more today than they did Susie Anthony got her mug on a dollar in 1979.

I don’t know why anyone would ever say that the government doesn’t pay attention to the will of the people? As much as I apreciate the email letting me know it’s available, I think I’ll take a pass on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

More Counting…

Breaking with tradition, it’s 8:00 on a Saturday and I’m not pondering the acceptability of crawling into bed while it’s still light outside. That would be because the doors just opened at the Borgata Events Center and sometime in the next hour or so, Counting Crows will be on stage. This falls well inside the circumference of my happy place.

Listening to these guys is always like taking a ride on the way back machine and landing square in the middle of Cambridge Hall, 6th floor, high side.

Like caged animals…

In Memphis, the occasional leaving of the dogs at the kennel was pretty much unavoidable. Surprisingly, friends and neighbors are a little hesitant to take on two 70 pound dogs at a time. Since I made it back home I haven’t really had any reason to travel. When it has cropped up, I was going places where I could take them with. No problem there. I know I could theoretically take them up to the farm and they’d be more than welcome, but a three hour round trip drive in the wrong direction seems kinda dumb when I’m only going to be gone for 18 hours and the round trip travel time (assuming I go only in the correct direction) is less than three hours to begin with. Yeah, I think I confused myself with that math, too. The point is, turning a 3 hour drive into a 6 hour drive isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, tomorrow morning the kids are off for a 24-hour stay at one of the fabulous local kennels in Cecil County… and as usual, I’m guilt ridden at leaving them somewhere new. I don’t have much of a soft spot when it comes to people, but these dogs are a different story. If it weren’t for local health codes and army regulations, I’d pretty much keep them with me 24/7.

Even though I’m sure to be racked with guilt, I think I’ll still manage to enjoy some quality time in the land of Boardwalk Empire. I’m sure the my heathens will be in good hands while I’m gone… because if they aren’t, whoever’s responsible for the deficiency will find themselves without hands at all. That might be an exaggeration, but there’s a pretty good chance they could expect to receive a tire iron to the face if some ill fate befell the pups while I’m gone. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Kids that drink hand sanitizer. What’s wrong with kids today? Back when I was coming up, we had the good sense to respect ourselves and steal miniatures of Seagram’s 7 and Canadian Club that our parents forgot were packed away in the back of the basement. In a pinch we’d even go so far as to make friends with someone older and let them hook us up. We were practitioners of creative acquisition, by God. It’s time someone steps in and teaches these youngsters that life is just too damned short to drink bad alcohol.

2. America’s puritanical streak. The Secret Service really stepped in it a few weeks back, make no mistake about it. I think they embarrassed themselves badly. Unlike the morality crusaders out there, though, I don’t think their embarrassment had anything to do with consorting with hookers. What happens between two consenting adults doesn’t mean a hill of beans to me. If you want to gig these guys over something, how about trying to flash their badge and use their position to get out of paying the bill? If two people want to trade money for sex, that’s between him, her, and the laws of that particular jurisdiction. I’ve never understood why I should care as long as its legitimately consensual. Sadly, America’s puritanical streak is once again showing itself to be alive and well at the mere thought that someone might have fornicated. If you want to get riled up, be mad because one of the agents was a cheap bastard, not because people had sex. It’s like we’ve got the national mentality of a room full of fifth graders.

3. Information Dominance. Every time I see that phrase written somewhere, I’m reminded of how many times a day my computer freezes, loses files, can’t connect to the printer, or thinks the internet doesn’t exist. Information dominance? Meh. I’d settle for desktop mediocrity.

Decimating whole forests…

I can’t imagine how this process would work back in the olden days when books were written and published on paper. Every time I turn around, there something I want to change, an error that needs fixed, and a new draft version number going up on the big board. If I were trying to do this even ten years ago, I would have slaughtered entire forests single handedly… and that would have still been with the help of a good solid word processor. The thought of what it might be like using a typewriter is just too sad for me to contemplate.

I think I could do nothing but edit every day for a month and still find things that aren’t quite right. As it is, I’m hungry, my eyes are sore, and my fingers hurt. And in the back of my head I know there are still mistakes out there that I missed, but will be sure to find next time I read through a draft. It’s infuriating, really, but at the moment, I can barely focus on the screen so the chances of anything productive happening for the rest of the night are between slim and none. Clearly, Hemingway drank because his editorial staff was not nearly large enough to get the job done. What hope does someone way fewer editors and much, much, much much less talent have at getting it done right?

Doing God’s work…

Sometimes I leave the office at the end of the day feel like I’m doing God’s own work. Other times I feel like I’ve spent the day beating myself bloody against a great stone wall. Nothing uncommon about that, I guess. The problem isn’t that there’s too much or too little to do, as much as it is there’s no moderating influence. Monday might be silent as a tomb and the next day you run with your hair on fire from the time you set foot in the building. That’s not a complaint (seriously), just a statement of fact. Still, it would be awfully nice if there was some way to smooth out the peaks and valleys on the demand side of the equation. When I figure that out, I’ll get busy writing my best selling leadership and management book and retire with a nice royalty check. Until then, I’ll just keep my head down until the winds shift.

Since I’m always the optimist, it’s worth noting that I still smile when I drive across the Susquehanna at 4:25 every afternoon. It’s worth remembering that no matter how strange the day has been, my days were always stranger in West Tennessee than this place could ever hope to be. The benefit of having been on the bottom looking up is that by comparison, everything else looks like ice cream and lollipops.

Diminishing Returns…

If you’re a blogger, one of the best ways to know how nice the weather is is taking a look at your daily site visit logs. In the middle of winter, when the nights are long, your number of views goes up. Same thing at the height of summer. Everyone is inside hiding from the heat. In the spring and fall, though, those are the doldrums. That’s when the floor really drops out and people have better things to do that putz around the interwebs checking out what people are bitching and complaining about that. All of that might not be strictly true of course, but that’s the pattern I’ve noticed over three years of watching these things. Maybe you don’t notice it on big sites that get millions of hits a day, but around here we pay attention to things like that.

Now if I were an unscrupulous web denizen, I could fill my tag cloud with phrases like “hot lesbian cheerleaders” and probably bost my numbers a bit, but realistically I’d rather keep bringing in people who are interested and interesting. I’m not always concerned about quality over quantity, but that’s how things are here at least. I wonder, though, how much of spring and fall doldrums are caused by readers having better things to do and how much it’s caused by bloggers who are just as interested in doing something that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a monitor. Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

But now that it’s cold again, I’m expecting your jerks to check in more often, mkay?

Time warp…

Every morning for the last week or two I’ve gotten in the truck, pulled up one of the “current hits” channels on Sirius and had an immediate and visceral “what is this gawd awful noise” kind of response to whatever song happens to be playing. I don’t want to say what I think I’m saying, but damn it, I remember top 40 songs being, well, better. Since life is too short to listen to music you can’t stand, I almost always find myself gravitating towards “the 90s on 9.” Not that I consider the 1990s in any way the high point of music or anything, it just… well… It just sounds better than what I’m hearing on those other channels.

I can’t help but take a nervous look over my shoulder. I know that dad’s satellite radio is more or less stuck on the 50s channel and only occasionally makes a jump over to the 60s. The thought that this is what’s slowly happening to me, has filled be with an unnatural dread. I’m serious. This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

As much of a curmudgeon as I am, I still think of myself as at least being passingly in touch with pop culture. I’ve already lost my hair and even though I’ve clearly made my peace with that, I’m just not willing to surrender anything else quite so easily to the evil bastard called aging gracefully. I remember liking music from summer well enough, so I’m crossing my fingers that 2012 is just a particularly bad year in music and not the harbinger of worse things to come. Maybe I’ll just leave it on 90s on 9 and call it a day.

Been there, done that…

The thing that no one ever seems to want to understand or be willing to accept about productivity software is that it’s usually designed to meet a specific need. Word, not surprisingly, is a reasonably good piece of word processing software. Take away all the bells and whistles and right down at the center of its core functionality, it still lets you put words on a blank electronic page and then tinker with them until everything looks just right. Most people grasp this almost intuitively at some level.

The real problems creep in when things get a little more complicated… Like when someone decides to buy into an entire file-sharing and collaboration platform that’s closely integrated with the Microsoft Office family of products. When they use the platform as the programmers intended – it’s actually a remarkably effective and efficient way to manage your information. On the other hand, when you give this product to a somewhat aged group of people and tell them to start using it from a standing start, well, you’re pretty much just inviting things to end badly.

I’ve seen this story play out before. The first couple of weeks are going to go like gangbusters, but once the early adopters have had their fun, the rollout will slow to a crawl. After that, it will be a hand-to-hand fight to convince the 50% who are holding out that it’s worth doing. Eventually, it will die under its own weight and we’ll be stuck with another system that we’re halfway using. Yeah, this ain’t my first rodeo, cowboy.

Stick around long enough and I guess you’ll see history repeat itself over, and over, and over, and over ad infinitum. At least this way I’ll only have to act surprised with how things turn out, rather than actually being surprised that something so simple could go so badly awry.