Habemus nominee…

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Republican Party finally has a nominee for president. Thanks for that, Texas. Sure, we’ve all known where it was headed for a couple of months now, but making it official seems like sort of a big deal to the media anyway. It means we can all now all get on board with the serious business of beating the other side to a bloody pulp and proclaiming the last man standing our king for the next four years. What’s not to like about that, right?

I wish I could vote for half of Mitt Romney. The half that says he wants to control spending and keep taxes at something close to a manageable level. The half that wants to use the federal government to regulate our personal lives I’d like to disavow and never speak of again. Once again, it appears I’ll be going to the voting booth, holding my nose, and voting for the least sucky of a hugely sucky pair of contenders… Unless he picks some ridiculous crackpot running mate. Then I’ll probably just stay home and weep for my country.

My incredible shrinking attention span…

No one reading this is going to be surprised to hear me say that I’m a creature of habit. That’s one of the problems I’ve always had with writing. As long as I make a conscious effort to carve out time to do it every day, all is right with the world. Unfortunately, it’s perilously easy to quickly slide into the habit of not writing. For the record, being a not writer is far, far easier than being a writer. Because I’m fundamentally hardwired to seek the path of least resistance, not writing anything on Saturday quickly turned into letting it slide for the next two days as well. It would be a simple thing to let it slide for the rest of the week, for another month, a year maybe, all because it stopped being part of my routine for a few days. Whether it’s blogging, churning out pulp fiction, or the great American novel, writing is an act of self discipline, which is another skill I have yet to fully realize.

When the sun’s out, a few dozen odds and ends need doing, the television, a list of books you’ve been meaning to read, and rum punch on the deck rear their heads, it’s hard to overcome the sheer number of things competing for your time and attention. For me at least, it’s easy to write in the winter. It’s gray and cold and frankly there’s not nearly as much competing for attention. With a cold rain falling, it’s nothing to churn out a couple thousand words in an afternoon. Once the weather turns, I’m lucky to muddle through two or three hundred, before my incredible shrinking attention span hurls me off in another direction. At least I can admit I have a problem. That’s the first step, right?

Useless…

There may be nothing in this great land of ours more useless than an government office on the Friday before a federal holiday. If you’ve ever worked in one, you know that’s not an exaggeration. Between people taking leave and the magic that is the Alternate Work Schedule program, no more than half the staff shows up to begin with. Around noon another 10-20% disappear to start their weekend. If anything was getting done to begin with, you can forget it after 2:00. The handful of people manning their desks are just a skeleton crew, left behind to give the illusion of productivity and even at that they’re not working very hard. Every eye falls on the minute hand as it sweeps its way around the clock to the earliest possible moment for departure.

I’ve always worked with a lot of people who take these days off since “nothing’s going to happen anyway.” I’m a bit of a contrarian about time off, though. Why burn up eight perfectly good hours of leave on a day when no real work is going to happen even if you do spend the whole day at your desk? I’d much rather save my time off for days when all hell is breaking loose. It’s a matter of extracting maximum value from every hour away from the office. Time off isn’t much good when I’m relaxed already. Feel me?

If Uncle wanted to save some scratch, he’d go ahead and shutter every office on the Friday before a holiday weekend. Whatever small amount of productivity happens is almost purely accidental and can’t come close to offsetting the cost of just turning the lights on.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The Prius. I’m sure you’re feeling very smug and superior about the gas you’re saving, Mr. Prius Driver, as you tool along at 40 miles an hour on a major commuter artery. What you really need to do though is either a) Buy a car that can actually keep up with the flow of traffic; b) Leave at a time other than when 10,000 people are trying to get home for the evening; c) Die in a horrible, fiery crash. It doesn’t make any difference at all to me which option you decide to exercise.

2. The election. I love politics, but can we seriously just shut up and vote already. Is there really anyone out there that hasn’t already made up their mind about who they’ll vote for in November. Admit it, the presidential election is the big draw. We’re no more likely to know more about the down-ticket candidates in November than we do now anyway. It’s ok, I’m not going to judge you for not knowing jack about the candidates for county commissioner, judge, or dog catcher. Let’s just save the time, effort, and hours of blathering on television and get on with it already. A hot mess now, a hot mess later, either way it’s going to be a hot mess. I’d rather just get it out of the way sooner rather than later.

3. In what universe does it take 14 hours to respond to an email that requires a simple yes or no answer. I’m not asking anyone to transcribe A Tale of Two Cities with their thumbs, just type in a two or three letter response and hit send. I know the Blackberry you’re carrying is an arcane bit of technology, but if memory serves, it’s pretty good at receiving and sending email, so unclench you sphincter, remove your head from your rectum, and keep up.

4. Being a Landlord. If there’s anything that sucks more than being a renter, it’s being a landlord. It’s even worse when you’re a landlord by proxy because that means you have to make decisions on the fly based on grainy pictures and not much information. Don’t believe me? Let me know how you feel when your property manager tells you that you need to spend 1/75th the “post correction” value of the house you’re already losing money on every month to fix the driveway because the slab is cracked and sinking at odd angles. I should have just asked him how much it would cost to hire an arsonist

You’re doing it wrong…

I’ve been reading a lot of articles over the last few months about people protesting the high price of this product or that product, general “corporate greed,” and any number of other economic issues. I’m a little surprised that no one has come forward to propose the simple solution yet. If you’re somebody who thinks the oil companies make too much money go ahead and scrape up the coin to buy a few shares of Exxon or BP. Convince 5 or 10 million of your closes friends to buy ten shares each and suddenly you’re a loud voice in the next shareholder meeting instead of just being a bunch of rabble standing on the sidewalk.

You know in your heart we’re not “getting off oil” until we absolutely have to, so why not take advantage of the increasing prices to put some coin in your pocket along with those nasty corporate big wigs. The minute you take on an ownership stake in one of these companies, I suspect your attitude towards profits and “social justice” will change… Unless you think capitalism itself is the problem and the oil companies are just your whipping boy of choice this year. Just remember that the free market has been at work in every culture since two cave men agreed to trade six deer hides for one shiny flat rock. It flourished in the black markets of the Soviet Union and moved China from agrarian backwater to workshop of the world in two or three generations. It was here before us and it will be here long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

Look, it’s a simple concept. There are only about 4 million dues paying members of the National Rifle Association. If the anti-gun people signed up 4,000,001 people and had them vote at the next annual meeting to change the corporate charter. Poof. Just like that the NRA becomes the nation’s leading advocate for gun control. People go about this protesting business all wrong. Tag board signs and marching in the street looks like amateur hour and the mob makes Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public vaguely nervous. If you want to see real changes, put on a suit and tie and find a way into the boardroom. That’s where change happens in the grown up world.

Case of the slows…

When President Lincoln fired General George B. McClellan, he cited the general’s “case of the slows” as one of the primary reasons. It seemed that no amount of prodding, pleading, or gesticulating from the White House could convince McClellan to actually use the splendid army he built to mercilessly crush the rebel Army of Northern Virginia and end the Civil War.

Now I’m not quite as opposed to a couple of slow days as Lincoln was, but I have my issues with them. First and foremost, slow days seem to drag on forever… Like when you look at the clock on the wall convinced it must surely be time for lunch only to discover that it’s not quite 9:30. Being busy can leave you battered and bloody, but at least it does seem to make the day go by. Counting ceiling tiles has its own special charm, but you can really only do that so many times before you go batshit crazy… and surprisingly, even Facebook gets remarkably quiet during the early afternoon hours when everyone is working.

Maybe the worst thing about not being particularly busy is that you start looking over your shoulder and wondering if it’s just you or if everyone else is bored to tears but just afraid to say anything out loud. I’ve been around for the better part of a decade now and know that there are two generally slow times of year; from around Memorial Day through the 4th of July and the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year it seems to catch me slightly off guard as I transition from whirling dervish to terracotta warrior and back again.

NATO…

The logic behind protesting against the one international institution that has actually accomplished anything since its inception is sort of beyond me. The UN, that loveable gaggle of windbags created in San Francisco and headquartered in New York, never seems to be able to find its ass with both hands and a map. On their watch North Korea got the bomb and Iran seems to be right behind them, the Middle East is as much a hotbed now as it was fifty years ago, and a dozen genocides and failed peacekeeping missions dot its less than impressive resume. Since 1945, the UN has been the preeminent forum for talking about the world’s problems and promptly doing nothing about them.

By way of comparison, the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty have spent the last 60-odd years deterring communist aggression, policing Bosnia and Yugoslavia, raising arms against the common foe when the United States was attacked in 2001, and more recently using air power and special forces troops to knock over a two bit dictatorship in Libya. It seems to me, all of those are good and commendable things to do.

So yeah, when it comes to understanding why the streets of Chicago are full of protestors, all I can do is scratch my head. Godspeed Chicago PD, knock heads and take names… and try to get a few licks in for those of us who can’t be there in person to help out.