What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Comcast. Making the list for the third or fourth time this year is the cable company that everyone loves to hate. Ever since I downgraded my service a two months ago, my bills have been arriving with what I’ll generously call wild inaccuracies. I spent 30 minutes yesterday on the phone with a very nice CSR who thought she was going to be able to make this month’s round of corrections. Except, of course, she couldn’t because the amount of the correction was in excess of $25… which triggered the need to execute what I believe she called an “elevation form for tier two service.” Instead of being transferred to this group of genies, I’d have to “stand by for them to contact me sometime within the next five business days.” I don’t know why I ever hold out hope that anything can either A) just work the way it’s supposed to work or B) Be corrected with a single phone call. Clearly my expectations are misaligned with reality.

2. The five day work week. I’m out of practice with being at my desk for a full five days in a row. I know this because it’s Thursday and the only ambition I have left is to muddle through tomorrow and get to the weekend. It’s not that the week has been particularly busy, problematic, or strange… but the trek from Monday to Friday has just seemed to go on forever. Now if I can just gin up enough oomph to drag myself through three more long weeks, I’ll be all set for the 11-day Christmas weekend.

3. Lunch. When I worked in DC, it was two blocks to Chinatown, one metro stop from Union Station and the Hill, or a 10 minute walk in almost any other direction to find a diverse and tasty array of lunch options. Here in Aberdeen, there’s a Subway, a Burger King, and a few other lunch places that more or less serve the same thing. While I don’t miss the daily 90 minute commute, I desperately miss having some variety in my lunch options. I miss General Tso’s from Tony Chang’s, burgers at the District Chophouse, and deep dish from Armand’s. At this point, God help me, I even have fond memories of the build your own salad bar next door to the office and the hot dog cart set up on the curb. I’m not expecting an urban food environment here in the wilds of north eastern Maryland, but if I don’t find something other than sandwiches soon I may have to resort to bringing my own food… and that’s just not an option I want to entertain.

10 week update…

I realized this afternoon that it’s been a while since my last Winston update and figured with this being a slow news day it’s as good a time to correct that as I’m likely to find. For those of you playing along at home, tomorrow will be 10 weeks since his surgery. You’ll remember the first two weeks were close confinement with walking kept to an absolute minimum. The last six weeks have seen slightly less confinement, but still have kept activity rather limited. In two weeks when we go back to the surgeon for his alleged last post-operative check up, I desperately hope that she will give the all clear for him to resume as much of a normal life as possible.

I really don’t know which of us will be more excited to finally see the plastic pen disappear from the middle of the living room. That the current Rental Casa de Jeff is a tri-level split gives me a moment of pause, though. I think it’s safe to say that my boy has climbed his last set of stairs, which means that he’s more or less limited to the kitchen and living room for the foreseeable future. That’s a lot more space than he’s had in the last two months, but still feels pretty confining. The pitch of the steps and their location make any kind of indoor ramping prohibitive, but I’m still casting around for a better idea than throwing up baby gates and calling it a done deal.

One thing I do have to say is that he’s getting around far better than I would have expected given how much work they did to his leg. I suppose in the wild a dog either plays hurt or lays down and dies, so there’s probably more than a little evolution at play. Still, even with high quality medication I’m not sure two days after having my knee rebuilt I’d have much interest in getting up and looking around.

Winston has been a real trooper through the whole experience and it seems like the hard part for him is wrapping up. Now if I can get past the notion that 50% of dogs that blow out one knee also blow out the other, everything will be just fine. Until then, I’m going to spaz out a little inside every time the poor dog takes a step.

Research, Test, and Evaluation…

Almost a decade ago a colleague who will remain unnamed started conducting a groundbreaking, though slightly less than scientific study into how large a ball of paper he could make using only class handouts. As this research effort got underway at a time before cell phone cameras, I don’t have any physical documentation, but as I recall it ended up being slightly smaller than a basketball and packed enough weight to be deadly when flung in the direction of your head. Trust me, in the far back rows of a dark, musty auditorium this is what passed for in class entertainment.

In the spirit of the upcoming anniversary of this Big Ball of Paper Test, I seem to have unwittingly begun my own research project into how many (mostly) empty plastic water bottles I can stow in the various compartments of my cubicle before remembering to take them down the hall to the recycling bin. As you can see from the photographic evidence, apparently that number is at least four, which given my usual level of OCD about random crap just sitting around is actually more impressive than you’re thinking it is right now.

And that’s where the test begins… to see how many (mostly) empty water bottles I can fit into my cubicle without freaking out and going on a mad cleaning spree or before one of my coworkers notices and asks WTF I’m doing with a metric crapload of plastic bottles sitting around… and yes, before someone asks, that’s what passed for entertainment this afternoon.

In retrospect, maybe I should have gone ahead and bought the desktop pingpong ball trebuchet when it was on sale yesterday. Now that would have been a productive use of time.


Sucking chest wound…

Getting back to the weekly grind is tough after a regular, uneventful weekend. Going back after a four-day weekend is a little more like trying to recover from massive ballistic trauma – without the blood and swelling, of course. Sitting at the computer, staring at Outlook, and making an effort at being productive was just downright painful… and I think just reinforces why I need to win Wednesday’s PowerBall drawing.

I envy that select group of people who jump out of bed in the morning, fully energized and looking forward to the day. Generally the best I can hope to achieve is fully caffeinated and looking forward to going home at the end of the day. That last bit shouldn’t be taken as a slam against my job. As far as work goes, it’s really not a bad one; with a little attention to detail and a willingness to not let common sense get in the way, there’s really not that much to complain about.

Still, a job is a job and like 99.9% of the other working slobs in this country, there are of 687 bazillion other things I’d rather be doing on any average day. Tops on my list is not waking up at 4:50AM to three screaming alarm clocks. It may seem like a small thing, but I think it would go a long way towards reducing my regular feeling of post-weekend trauma. Since my experience has been that one job is more or less like the next, it seems to be that the only real alternatives at this point are to start robbing banks, come up with a Wall Street ponzi scheme, or win the PowerBall jackpot.

With only one of those three not leading more or less directly to prison, I’d say that the only acceptable plan is to win the lottery. Well, either that or somehow learn not to think of Monday as the sucking chest wound on the torso of life. Wish me luck.

Here’s to not feeling like warm death on a muffin…

After enjoying Thanksgiving with the family, doing more in person shopping in one day than I do the rest of the year, and fighting off what was either a very brief cold or a singularly bad attack of allergies, I’m slowly working myself back into the old routine. Being Sunday, of course, much of that routine involves being annoyed that the weekend is already over. Weekends, even when they’re twice as long as usual, never really feel long enough. At least no one else won the Powerball jackpot last night, so that means I’ve still got a shot at it on Wednesday. That’s pretty much my happy thought for the first half of the week. After that, I’ll make no promises about keeping up a cheery disposition – especially since we’re now in the long stretch of no scheduled days off leading up to Christmas. The last few weeks have spoiled me with the random clumps of annual leave liberally sprinkled across October and November. Somehow I’ll manage to get by with just the normal two-day weekends for a few weeks, I’m sure.

So, now that I’m not feeling like warm death on a muffin, I’d better get on with doing the odds and ends that keep this place from falling down around my ears. With the holiday over, I’ll try to get back to something like a normal posting schedule here. In the meantime, if you really have an itch for more reading, take a look at the five “new” old posts from October 2006 that I put up earlier this morning.

Be thankful, or My Seven Favorite Sins…

Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday. Say what you want about Independence Day or Columbus Day, but for my money, Thanksgiving is that one most quintessentially American holiday. Basing a major national holiday around a table laden with high fat, high carb, loaded with sugar foods is just about the perfect celebration of gluttony. I have to think that no one could pull off that kind of holiday quite as well as America can and does year in and year out.

After our high calorie meal, the vast majority of us are going to spend a good part of the evening lying about the house inspecting inside of our eyelids. Score one for sloth. After we’ve sufficiently recuperated from our meal, as a nation we’ll waddle off into the cold November darkness to our retailers of choice. Once there, we’ll spend billions of dollars on trinkets and baubles of every type. If someone is unfortunate enough to get in our way, we’ll trample them in a rush to the shelves piled high with merchandise. We’ve taken a bite out of wrath, greed, and envy right there.

Now, while we’re waiting in the checkout line or once we finally get our precious haul back to the nominal safety of our respective places of residence, we’ll post on Facebook about what deals we were able to scavenge. Our friends and family will be so jealous! Nice to see you there, pride.

The only thing missing is lust, but look on the bright side… This four-day splurge-a-thon is just getting warmed up.

From the writer, editor, and publisher of jeffreytharp.com to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving!

This is definitely my favorite holiday.

Say anything…

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means it doesn’t much matter what I write here. If historical precedent is to be believed, all of nine people will actually see it. Even so, it feels like I should make some kind of effort to eliminate a little more white space from the internet. That seems particularly important since throwing down a holiday edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week on Thanksgiving seems vaguely inappropriate, Besides, I want to reserve the right to skip tomorrow if that seems like a better alternative given the food coma tentatively scheduled to begin shortly after dinner is served.

In the spirit of the impending holiday, I’ve noticed that many of my friends have been listing the things they’re thankful for in a daily post on Facebook. It’s hard to disagree with most of them – friends, family, a roof over one’s head. I’m pretty sure I even saw Miller Light suck in there somewhere. I’ll simply say ditto. My list probably isn’t all that much different from anyone elses and since they’ve already covered the high points, the only thing I can think to add to the list is this: I am spectacularly thankful to have a shower that is now back in full working order. You don’t fully appreciate how nice a thing a working shower is until you’ve been living for three weeks with one that’s gone haywire.

So yeah, if last year was the year of being thankful for being back in Maryland, this is the Thanksgiving where I celebrate the marvel of indoor plumbing. Given this trend, look for next year to feature a deep, heartfelt appreciation for fire or the wheel.

Fame and fortune…

Every artist has their medium of choice. Mine just happens to be PowerPoint. That’s convenient, because PowerPoint doesn’t demand a great deal of artistic skill. What it does demand is a willingness to go googly-eyed staring at twin monitors all day long while clicking on a selection of hundreds of small boxes in an effort to bring about the desired effect. Honest to God, sometimes after I get done with a set of charts, not even I know what they’re trying to say, but by God they look good doing it. And really, it’s all about bringing a good looking set of charts to the meeting. If push comes to shove, if they’re built right, the people in the room will be too dazzled by the graphics to be all that bothered by what they’re actually hearing.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a street value placed on badass PowerPoint charts. I feel like there should be some kind of trendy art studio that specializes in this kind of thing. Like other great artists, I fear that my work will never be fully appreciated in my own lifetime. Many years from now, surely someone will stumble across a disk of my slides and realize, belatedly, that they are in the presence of a master, whose skill with a slide deck was truly underestimated.

As an alternative, perhaps I’ll start selling signed originals in the hallway after meetings. That’s a sure path to fame and fortune, right?

Lead me not into temptation…

It’s getting to be that time of year when it becomes way to easy to fall out of the writing habit. It’s easy to skip a day here, and a day there. Then it becomes two days or three. Suddenly you find it’s been a week and despite that you still have nothing to say. After we week it feels damned near impossible to figure out how it was every part of your routine to begin with. The time starts sneaking away from you and you’ll have no idea where it’s gone.

I know it’s true not just because that’s what it feels like, but because I’ve got the numbers to prove it. November and December are consistently my worst months in terms of page visits. I’m more than willing to take part of the blame for that. I’m not as focused on keeping up the one-a-day rate when I’m distracted by food, family, travel, and friends. That’s just a fact of life. The other part of the equation is out of my hands though – it’s that there are just plain fewer people hanging around reading blogs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know I’m guilty of neglecting many that I read on a regular basis at other times of the year, so mine shouldn’t be immune from the downturn in readers either.

I’m never going to pretent to have much of a clue about what compels anyone to read the trifles I leave here, so I can’t promise anything enlightening, newsworthy, or even particularly entertaining. What I can promise is that I’m going to do my best to keep up a steady drumbeat during the holiday season and not be led by the temptation to “take some time off” just because things happen to be a little slow. The fact is I’m lazy and getting things jumpstarted again after Christmas is just too much of a pain in the ass to want to deal with when the time comes. It’s far better to keep plugging away and let inertia carry me through the new year… or the Mayan apocalypse… whichever comes first.

I’ve been a bad, bad boy…

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I don’t know exactly if that’s because things have gotten less stupid or I’m simply becoming use to the same level of stupid as before. Regardless, there are still a few moments when all I can do is sit back and shake my head.

As it turns out, I’ve been a bad, bad boy. I’ve been talking to people in other offices without the express, written permission of their supervisor. That, apparently, constitutes a gross violation of civil conduct and is an affront to the gods themselves. After half a career, you’d think I would remember that trying to get information directly from the source will do nothing but get you into trouble.

Instead of asking Person A directly for the information I need, the Official Process demands that I ask Person B, who will direct Person C to oversee the request for information and, who will thusly inform Person A that a request for information has been made. The information requested can then be transmitted back to me by the same circuitous route. Instead of taking 15 minutes, the process will take three days, involve, a minimum of two extra people, and has garnered three angry emails reminding me that “it’s not ok to talk to people from other offices without permission.” We could have saved an inordinate amount of time by any one of those three people simply answering the question rather than engaging in some half assed turf war, but there you have it, your bureaucracy in action… or is that your bureaucracy inaction?

So yes, please consider me sufficiently chastised for cheekily disregarding the standard routing of requests for information in an effort to actually get something done in a timely manner. Rest assured when it comes time to toss someone under the bus for delaying the project, I’ll have no qualms at all about reminding the Powers That Be who has been jamming their sabots into the machinery.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.