What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Unpredictability. Know what? I’m a creature of habit. I like it that way. I take great comfort that things are going to happen at a regular time, in their regular way, and go more or less like clockwork. Most of you have never experienced my Saturday routine, but if you’re a fan of the German railroads, you’d love it, because if nothing else, I keep life running on time. The foreseeable future, including my personal budget, work schedule, and general attitude is going to be highly unpredictable and mostly beyond my control. We spend our lives dancing to a tune someone else calls, but at least most of the time we have the illusion of charting our own course. These are unpredictable times and that annoys me to no end.

2. Market research. One of the great pains in the ass when it comes to electronic publishing has been doing the market research on the competition. This is especially true as I’ve started really digging through the “management and leadership” section at Amazon. As far as I can tell, everyone over there seems to think the secret to work can be distilled into “5 Rules” or “21 Steps” or be based on releasing your inner office ninja. Aside from Scott Adams and Dilbert, mine might actually be the only voice of sanity in this world gone mad.

3. Unknown callers. Look, if you’ve called the phone number that I’ve had since sometime in 2003, leave a message for someone named Christy regarding buying a new car, and I don’t call back, the solution isn’t to then call three times a day for the next two weeks. I know the simple solution is just to answer, take a few minutes, and explain that you’ve gotten something completely jacked up, but the more passive aggressive option is to go ahead and let you continue to waste time calling someone who will never, ever answer.

So here’s the deal…

I took every spare minute I could scrounge up over the last six months and wrote a book. Thanks to the generosity of a few friends, What You Didn’t Learn in College: A Field Guide to Surviving the Cubicle Wars is now working its way through the editing and “beta” process. In a couple of weeks, the plan is to have this little gem available as an ebook through three primary retail channels: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Eventually, Smashwords will spread that distribution out to other retail outlets like the Apple iBooks, Kobo, Sony, and others smaller venues. I’m still looking into ways to bring the book to market in print that don’t require a) dealing with a publisher or b) cost a small fortune and result in boxes of inventory sitting in my basement.

Rest assured, as soon as the editing is finished and the retail side is up and running, you’ll be among the first to know. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to support the cause:

1. Follow me on Twitter – @jdtharp

2. Like my new “official” fan page on Facebook and share it with your friends

See how easy that was? No fuss, no muss – Just a few clicks and your good deed for the day is done. Now all you have to do is sit back, relax, and stay tuned.

Looking on the bright side…

You know what’s fun about Sequestration? Nothing. That’s what’s fun about sequestration. Now if you’d have asked a slightly different question, the answer would be slightly different. If you asked what’s vaguely entertaining about sequestration, I could legitimately say it’s entertaining to listen to people talk about what they think they know when it’s very obvious that nobody actually knows anything at all… and that whatever plans are put in place can instantly be made pointless should Congress do so much as sneeze. Since it appears to be a given that this thing is going to happen to one degree or another, the only thing left to do is sit back and watch the universe come unglued. Maybe we should make some kind of furlough day drinking game out of it. I haven’t decided yet.

It’s no surprise that as far as I’m concerned both sides are right and both sides are wrong. God knows there’s plenty of fat to cut from government spending, but across the board cuts don’t bother to differentiate it from the muscle and tends to result in cutting “good” government and “bad” government equally. In case anyone is wondering, indiscriminate budget cuts are rarely the hallmark of good decision making. Maybe it’s good politics, but it’s really shitty governance and even more appalling public policy. I’d love to say this is the last time I’m going to rant about this, but the truth is I can’t even promise it’s the last time this week that it’s going to agitate me enough to take up space here.

A cabin in the wilderness, a few solar panels, a couple rifles, and a no trespassing sign sounds better every single day.

Nothing to show…

Ever have one of those days where sit down at quarter after seven and then suddenly look up and realize it’s half past three? Yeah. The kind of day that feels like it’s over before it ever got started. I hate days like that. I want to know where my time is going instead of just having it lost into the ether. Maybe if I had something to show for it, I wouldn’t be quite so bothered. At a minimum I’d like to be able to at least tick off one or two of the things on the day’s list of things to do. Some days you don’t even get that small pleasure. Today was one of those days. I know I got “stuff” done, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m standing around, looking vaguely confused, and wondering WTF just happened.

Sunday travel…

It’s Sunday morning again, and you know what to expect by this point. We’re clearing the backlog of old posts and I’m happy to say that we’ve made it all the way up to April 2007. There’s a particularly meaningful set of posts for me because they’re the ones I wrote the last time I was in Italy. If I wasn’t born an American, I think I could have done ok as an Italian. Then again that may mostly be due to the ready access to good reds, so we may never know the actual truth. At any rate, this week’s Sunday archive posts come all the way to you not just from the past, but also from northern Italy. Oh, and since these are kind of in order, it might be helpful to scroll down and read up the page from the end. Just a thought. Enjoy.

That’s what I call a Saturday…

So yeah, the dogs are fed, the tortoise is fed, the laundry is mostly done, I managed to both write and edit a bit today, dinner is cooking away without any additional need for my attention, and Fox News is yammering away in the background. That’s what I call a Saturday. And I’m not sure if it’s impressive, depressive, or some combination of the two. If anyone needs me, I’ll pe selecting a something to watch for this weekend’s edition of Dinner and a Movie.


I’ve been working on a book. That’s not exactly been a secret. It feels like I’ve been tinkering with it since just after the dawn of time and I’m sure you all feel like you’ve been hearing about it for even longer than that. The good news is that the actual writing is (for the most part) finished, I’ve made the first pass at editing over the last few nights, and earlier today I seeded the text to a handfull of people who have graciously volunteered their time to be beta readers. Once they’ve finished and gotten comments and suggestions back to me, I’ll take a few more swings through the editing process, address some layout issues, and come up with a cover that doesn’t look like I designed it using PowerPoint.

So yeah, the good news is you’re going to be spared the pain and aggravation of listening to me bitch about writing for a while. To compensate I’ll be ratcheting up the volume on my complaints about editing. I mean, I want everyone to feel like their part of this process right along with me. I mean who doesn’t want to know fun facts like the first draft contained 137 separate instances of the word “likely” and 27 sentences that started with the phrase “Go ahead…” Let’s just say that first draft version 1.1 showed some significant improvements.

This blog was very clearly the inspiration for the book and if you read it, I think you’ll notice the same tone come through almost immediately. Where the blog ranges out over whatever topics happen to strike my fancy, I limited my efforts on the book to a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. With a working title of What College Didn’t Teach You: A Ground Guide to Surviving Your First Big Job, I’m going to do my best to deliver 35 chapters of observations, generalizations, and snarky commentary about the lessons I’ve learned from navigating big, bureaucratic organizations for my entire professional life. Mostly, it’s just a collection of things I know now that I wish I’d have known in the Summer of 2000.

For now, it’s all about editing, cleaning, figuring out if I’m going to get wrapped up with the US Office of Government Ethics, and reminding everyone repeatedly to read the disclaimer.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The IRS. So apparently no one told the IRS that it’s tax season. I mean that’s all I can assume since they haven’t bothered to publish the form you need to fill out if you’re depreciating rental property. If they’re going to set April 14th as the arbitrary annual celebration of screwing the taxpayer with his pants on, the least they can do is make sure to give you all the proper forms so your paperwork can be in order when they do it. I want my money. Asshats.

2. The men and women of the United States Congress. While our friends in Congress have been enjoying their week long sabbatical for Washington’s Birthday, the two million odd federal employees that aren’t Members, have only gotten a week closer to their furlough notice. The difference, of course, being that the Members were paid for their time back in the home district, where as the poor schlubs who decided federal work as a good idea will be going home without pay once a week for the next six months. You’ve got to love a group of people delusional enough to say that taking a pay cut themselves would diminish the dignity of their office while simultaneously telling the people working for them to take a 20% cut and thank them for the opportunity. Since I want to hang on to my soon to be part-time job for a while longer, I’ll refrain from saying how I’d really like to resolve this fiasco.

3. Editing. I love writing. Editing, the handmaiden of writing, is an evil soulless bitch from which there is no hope of escape. In that moment of ecstasy when you think you’ve written something really, really well, Editing shows up and reminds you with swift fury that no, no you didn’t and that it’s time to get back in your hole and write some more… except this time pay attention to grammar, punctuation, style, and usage.

Redefining irony…

Most mornings I’m greeted at the office with more than a handful of emails. Usually they’re run of the mill mass notifications that come in overnight, but just occasionally they’re something a little more than that. Like this morning, when the two messages at the top of my inbox were one providing more information on the impending furlough of federal employees and the other inviting me to take an employee satisfaction survey. It’s hard to find a better definition of irony than landing those two topics next to one another.

Let me be real honest here for a minute… no matter how much I may like my job, the people I work with, or how well the building is heated and cooled, when you tell me you’ll be cutting my pay by 20% for the remainder of the year, my employee satisfaction plummets into negative numbers. No amount of ample parking, health fairs, and access to a gym is going to compensate for that. Sorry. There’s being a team player, and then there’s getting screwed with your pants on… and I’ve been around long enough to know the difference when I see it.

In a republic, one makes his displeasure known by registering an opinion with their elected “leaders,” and yes I use that term loosely. Having expressed by disgust to the head of the executive branch, the legislative branch leadership team, and to my own elected representatives, all that’s really left is to register my profound discontent here in my very own marketplace of ideas. Honestly, stoking the fire here is probably more productive than anything I’ve bothered to send to our political masters anyway. At least here, I know someone is going to actually going to get around to reading what ends up on the page… and as a special bonus, I won’t get a form letter in response.