Lack of sleep, coffee, and other stuff…

It’s Easter morning and thanks to the decongestant I’ve been living on for the last week I slept for a grand total of two hours last night (and then only when I propped myself up in the recliner so I could actually breath). Either one of those factors, by itself, would probably be sufficient justification for letting the regular sunday posts fall by the wayside. But still, here I am – bleary eyed, hacking my damned fool head off, and not even sure if the words I’m throwing together make any sense at all. Sick or well, it’s just what I do on Sunday mornings.

At some point in the not too distant future I’m sure there will be a wall and that I will run into it with predictably bad consequences. In the meantime, I’m trying to front load as many of the days activities as I can into the morning. Since my ability to craft a coherent narrative is a bit suspect at this point, I’ll cut this short and just let you know that the Sunday update from the archives is available at your convenience.

Feel free to stop by for a visit in May and June 2007.

It’s a kind of magic…

Paperback ProofOK, so the alternate title for this post was going to be “The post in which the author gets sentimental…”, but in deference to Queen, I decided to steal their title shamelessly. Regardless, haggling over the title isn’t the point of this particular post. What the point is, however, is what an unexpectedly intense feeling it is holding a book your slavishly worked over for eighteen months in your hands for the first time. Sure, I’ve been dealing with the electronic version for the last few weeks, and with what feels like dozens of Word drafts for months before that, but there is a certain reality to having the physical book in your hand. Having mostly gone “all in” to the electronic world for my own reading, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t catch me off guard. I’d been looking at it mostly as one more avenue to reach people who hadn’t adopted e-readers yet and maybe talk it into a few local book stores as just an ego rub. What I found is something altogether different – after cutting away the brown cardboard wrapper, what I had wasn’t a collection of files, cover art, and a sales pitch. I had a book.

I don’t have any point of comparison for what standing in the kitchen holding the proof, tired from working all day with allergies making life miserable, was really like. Not being a particularly expressive guy at the best of times, all I can say is that I had a moment yesterday. It was one of those across a crowded room, golf shot, lighting strike moments. All I know for sure is I want that feeling again… and again… and again. It’s gotta be what that first line of cocaine is like. It’s an incredible, intensely personal high. I’ve got to write more. I’ve got to get that high again. Maybe it’s never as good as your first, but I get the feeling I’m never going to stop chasing it. I don’t know that I can stop chasing it now even if I wanted to.

Take Out the Trash Day…

In an episode of the West Wing, Josh and Donna have a conversation about why Friday is called “Take Out the Trash Day.” To boil it down, Friday is the day that the week’s bad news stories get released to the media. That’s mostly because except for a few hard core news junkies, people don’t tend to pay much attention to the news over the weekend. What little attention a bad story gets in the weekend press is swallowed whole by the new cycle before anyone logs in to the Washington Post on Monday morning.

While the chances of breaking a national scandal wide open here by yours truly is pretty slim, blogging faces much the same hazard as most other kinds of media – namely that Friday and Saturday tend to be low-volume events. It generally means what you’re reading on those days isn’t exactly “A” level material. When you throw in the fact that it’s a fair size portion of the country will be acknowledging Easter this Sunday, the viewership statistics drop right through the floor. Apparently, people spend Easter doing something other than tending to status updates on Facebook and catching up on the blogs they follow – to each their own, I suppose.

Don’t worry though, I’ll be right here posting my regular updates throughout the weekend, like some kind of evil, godless heathen. It’s ok, you can thank me later. I hope you didn’t mind this little bit of inside baseball discussion. It’s Friday after all and it only seemed fitting in celebration of Take Out the Trash Day.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Sequestration. Some are hailing the alleged reduction in furlough days from 22 to 14 as “great” news for Defense employees. While I agree that it is news, that’s pretty much where I’m going to have to stop. It sounds a bit to me like the Pentagon is set to announce the good news that its civilian employees still have a sucking chest wound, but it was delivered form a .40 round instead of from a .45. Neither one of those events would be welcomed as a “good news” story by most people. I guess when it comes to getting screwed with your pants on, I can’t differentiate by degrees of badness.

2. Tortoise Poop. George has been part of the menagerie for about three months now. He’s been a great, non-obtrusive addition who seems to enjoy spending most days alternately sleeping in his flower pot, sitting under his sunlamp, or grazing on mixed greens. The only problem I’ve encountered so far is that tortoise poo reeks – and I don’t mean it’s a little smelly. Think more like condensed cow manure being deposited in your living room. It’s not awful if you are home and can get to it right away, but if you happen to be at work and it festers under the heat lamp all day, well, then God help you. Yankee Candle doesn’t have enough wax to cover that shit up.

3. What is Dead May Never Die. With apologies to House Greyjoy, they ain’t got nothing on the bureaucracy. Surely one of the most agitating features of work is seeing the project that was supposed to be dead and gone three months ago, that you buried, purified by fire, and hoped to never see again, rising from the ashes to again steal time and attention away from other things you’re trying to get finished. No matter how thoroughly an idea has been debunked, disproved, and derided, just wait a while and it’s sure to come back to you. Like the murderer in a horror movie, just when you think it’s long gone, it will rise again to claim at least one more victim.


I’ve got an entire chapter of Nobody Told Me… The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees devoted to the nature, causes, and avoidance of meetings. Sadly, being forewarned only lets you know what you’re in for, it doesn’t automatically get you a Get-Out-of-Meeting-Free pass. It seems that no power on earth can shove a meeting off course once it has built up a sufficient degree of its own bureaucratic inertia.

Under those circumstances, you get what we’ve had here this week – which is a meeting schedule that looks something like this:

Friday Morning: Pre-Pre-Prep Meeting (1 hour)

Friday Afternoon: Pre-Prep Meeting (90 minutes)

Monday Morning: Prep Meeting Part 1 (1 hour)

Tuesday Morning: Prep Meeting Part 2 (90 minutes)

Wednesday Afternoon: Meeting (90 minutes)

Thursday Morning: Post-Meeting Meeting (90 minutes)

This is not a particularly extreme example of what takes place to in advance and following what I’ll commonly refer to as a Very Important Meeting (VIM). In this case, VIM preparation, the VIM itself, and its aftermath sucked up about 480 minutes, or eight hours. That’s one-fifth of the workweek lost to a single meeting (or one-fourth of the proposed furlough work week in case anyone at home is keeping track). I don’t even want to admit how much time gets spent scheduling, preparing slides, making sure video lines are available, and mastering the actual subject material for one of these sessions. How much time is spent preparing for and attending meetings would make the average person’s eyes water.

Look, I’m not saying that every meeting is an enormous waste of time and effort, but maybe if we could just have one or two of them instead of six, we might all be able to get a little more accomplished. Maybe I should go ahead and schedule a meeting to discuss this new and innovative concept.

You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.

Always on…

If your work involves a computer connected to the internet, you’ll know that there is something far more sinister that a normal network outage. When faced with a total disruption, you can at least try to make the best of it and do something that doesn’t require accessing the internet. What’s more insidious than a total failure of the network? It’s the dreaded “intermittent network connectivity issues” message that shows up during one of the windows when the internet is actually working.

As far as I can tell, the intermittent problem is far worse than a full blown outage. It means you’re going to sit at your desk and keep hitting refresh or resend indefinitely – locking you into a kind of electronic purgatory of endless spinning status icons and error messages interspersed with occasionally glimpses of the wonderfully connected word of the interwebs that exists just beyond your office firewall. For someone whose job is mostly based on gathering, analyzing, and moving large amounts of information from Point A to Point B, it’s the contemporary equivalent of Chinese water torture or death by a thousand cuts.

In any case, it’s intolerable. I’m beginning to lean towards always-on, high-speed internet streaming to your computer and phone being the civil rights crusade of the 21st century.

Darts and a blindfold…

A few weeks ago it rained. It was a hard rain and the office operated the whole day under a policy of “liberal leave,” where people could use unscheduled leave without penalty. Now if fairness, this was allowed because a mile or two north of our waterfront paradise the snow was falling to beat the band… but still here at the office it was rainy day.

Fast forward to this morning. The roads throughout the area were covered and snow was falling from the sky at a respectable clip. Driving conditions, while not quite treacherous, was considerably less than ideal. Because the snow had started falling more or less at the same time people start showing up for work, the parking lots, sidewalks, and pretty much every flat surface was an ankle deep puddle of slush that no one had gotten around to treating yet. It would have made for an excellent opportunity to announce liberal leave or to cut the first hour or two off the work day. It would have gone a long way towards earning a little bit of employee good will in an environment where that’s in pretty damned short supply.

I’m sure there’s some kind of logic to how such decisions get made at echelons higher than reality… though based on almost two years of observation, I’m beginning to think the process includes darts and a blindfold.

Hear my voice…

No one recognizes the irony of posting voices from the past when my current voice is a bit ragged. Conveniently here in the 21st century, I don’t need to use my shredded vocal chords and raw-feeling throat to get the word out. Sitting at a keyboard and spreading my own version of the good news feels more natural anyway.

Anyway, we’re back on a regular Sunday schedule which means that the latest offerings from the archives are up and ready for your enjoyment. Featuring five posts from May 2007, we cover plenty of ground – from the joys of business travel to photography. One of the things that “expert” bloggers always tell you is to find your niche and stay in it. Fortunately, it seems my niche is being a cranky commentator on whatever happens to cross my mind on any given day. I guess it does help if you’re writing what you know.

That special time of year…

It’s the special time of year when the pollen count starts to reach into the stratosphere. I know this because for the last week my eyes have been itchy, I’ve been sneezing my damned fool head off, and the back of my throat has felt like I’ve been playing a game of swallow the razor blade. Between Claritin and ibuprofen, I’m holding it at bay, buy I really do wish it would be a regular case of sick so it could hit, be unpleasant for a few days, and then go the hell away until next time.

Like many of the bad things over the last half decade or so, I mostly blame Memphis. I didn’t have any allergies as an adult until I moved to the south and experienced spring with a new mix of flora and fauna. Apparently while my system learning how to deal with that, it was simultaneously forgetting how to handle the plants of my native land. On the bright side, by June I should be just fine. Super.

Mark that up as reason #6,273 why I never need to leave the Mid-Atlantic ever, ever again.


There are plenty of places that try very hard to raise the simple and delicious hamburger into something like a high art form. I’m sure there is a place for a gourmet burger piled high with expensive and exotic toppings, but for my money there’s nothing better than a basic cheeseburger loaded down with ketchup, mustard, and raw onion on a buttered and toasted bun. Take one look at me and you’ll know I’m not exactly one to go in for the latest trends in Asian fusion or French cuisine. Those meals are more like an appetizer than a main course. It all boils down to personal preference, but I’m going to lay the blame squarely on the greasy spoon dining of my youth – Scotty’s, Kelly’s, and Marshall’s were all places to go to find a burger that was unapologetic about what it was and that didn’t need to be heaped with extras to taste good.

The real, local hamburger experience is getting harder and harder to find – it’s almost impossible unless you’ve been in an area close to forever. Ask most people where to get the best burger in town and they’re as likely to direct you to Sonic as they are to some mom and pop diner outside of town on the back road. For most of us, those places don’t exist anywhere but in our memory any more… But fortunately, that doesn’t mean the purists among us are stuck with some kind of fancy pants, snob burger.

Enter Five Guys. In my travels a few weekends ago I was lucky enough to spy what appeared to be a Five Guys Burgers and Fries not far away from me in Delaware. As far as I can tell, putting in an order from them is the next best thing to sitting down for one more burger in the battered, stained, and broken booths at Scotty’s. The atmosphere doesn’t even come close, but if you close your eyes and bite, the flavor is right there… Now if I can just talk them into putting brown gravy on the fries.

You’ll have to excuse me, but I need to go change. It’s time to start thinking about crossing state lines in search of dinner.