Now that the initial buzz (and corresponding sales) for Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees has died down, it’s time to start getting serious about the long term marketing plan. The big push this week is to get press releases to the local newspapers here in the greater Ceciltucky area (local resident does good), in Western Maryland (hometown boy does good), and to the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, and New York Times (because my ego clearly knows no bounds). I’m willing to concede that this whole thing may just be an exercise in vanity, but a bigger part of me still feels like there’s plenty of room in the marketplace of ideas for another snarky, sarcastic jerk who you’d probably still enjoy having a beer with.

As for what comes after that, well, to be perfectly frank I don’t really know. Writing and marketing are two tremendously different skill sets. I have some raw skill in one and a touch of formal education in the other, but I’m not anywhere near a master of either. The part of me that writes because it’s what I enjoy doing would be happy to get back to doing that and ignoring everything else. Of course the part of me that wouldn’t mind making a few coins from the effort is still chomping at the bit to sell, sell, sell. As usual, reality is going to land somewhere in the middle and be guided at least as much by the limits of available time as by anything else.

In my own name…

There’s a certain amount of hubris to running a website in your own name. It certainly makes you easy enough to find (*cough* #1 search result for Jeffrey Tharp on Google *cough*). It means there’s nothing to hide behind when you make a mistake or take a position on an issue. All you have is your good name and the words you choose to make your argument. When it’s your name up there in the address bar, you’d better Harrassmentbelieve there’s an incentive to get it right the first time. In more than seven years of blogging, I’ve never posted anything to this site or the ones that came prior to it that I was ashamed or embarrassed to see running with my given name in the byline.

Of course on the internet it’s easy to be mostly anonymous. It’s easy to fire off a comment or an email when there’s no apparent accountability. The truth is, nine times out of ten there isn’t any accountability. That’s just one of the charming ways the internet is still like the Wild West.

With that being said, it is my personal policy and the official policy of to refer any and all comments that are threatening or of a harassing nature to the sender’s service provider with a request to cease and desist and to preserve copies of all associated posts, comments, and emails for use in any criminal or civil investigation and/or litigation that may arise as a result of failing to comply with this request. We are not going to be drug into the ugly internet business of feeding the trolls, regardless of how tempting that might be.

I reserve the right to edit, modify, or delete all comments that do not comply with WordPress terms of service or that I deem inappropriate, harassing, or threatening. I continue to encourage feedback, discussion, and open debate about the issues, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to open this blog as a free for all. If that’s what you’re looking for, I suggest you go buy your own domain name, set up a website, and rant about how unfair life is on your own nickel, because you won’t be doing it on mine.

Yea verily I say unto you, here endeth the lesson.

Way late…

OK, I know I’m way late on getting this to you today, but I was unforeseeably detained this morning and just didn’t get to it, so I hope you’ll forgive me for bringing this week’s update from the archive to you twelve hours after you were all expecting it.

As a thank you for your patience, this week’s update includes a bonus post from July 2007 in addition to the normal five posts your’ve all come to know and love on Sunday mornings. That wraps up our visit with July, so next week, we’ll march on to August 2007. Don’t ever say that I don’t know how to show readers a good time.

Just me?

At just shy of the 35 year mark I’m starting to wonder if there’s ever a time when you can sit down in the house where you grew up and not be crammed into the 16-year-old-who-just-got-his-license role. Being pretty well along in life and having done ok in the job and education lottery, it makes for some tense moments and awkward silences. Or maybe it’s just me.

For my next trick…

We all know I like to write. You don’t blog for seven years and publish a book if you’re adverse to putting words on paper. Writing is the best sub-minimum wage job I’ve ever had and it more than makes a run at what I’d do full time if I didn’t have pesky concerns like rent and groceries. For all practical purposes that’s a complete pipe dream, but it’s a happy pipe dream at least.

Since I took on the bureaucracy in my debut effort, the question I’ve been struggling with for the last month or so is what comes next. I’m toying with giving my short-lived teaching career the same treatment. I think there’s enough distance between me and that aborted attempt at a career that it could be fun. I worry that two and a half years over a decade ago might not give me quite as much source material as I’d like to have. I wasn’t as good at keeping notes of all the stupid things that happened back then as I am today.

Another option I’ve been kicking around is taking on the whole concept of leadership and management. God knows my brief tenure as a manager left me with enough material to at least get started on something interesting. Plus there’s the whole parade of good and terrible bosses that you encounter over the course of any career. That’s a rich mine of ideas right there, though I’m not entirely sure I want to stick with the business and career genre for another round.

Then there’s fiction. Maybe everyone who writes thinks they have the great American novel in them somewhere. I’m not sure I even have a proto-idea of what that might look like, but fiction is something I’d love to tinker with eventually… but I’d rather start out with the ghost of an idea rather than just a blank sheet of paper.

What’s the point? Yet another thing I don’t know. Something’s going to be next, but what’s that is just hasn’t occurred to me yet.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Big Brother Knows Best. His distinguished honor the Mayor of New York City said earlier this week that “…our obligation first and foremost is to keep our kids safe in the schools; first and foremost, to keep you safe if you go to a sporting event; first and foremost is to keep you safe if you walk down the streets or go into our parks.” He went on to say “We cannot let the terrorists put us in a situation where we can’t do those things. And the ways to do that is to provide what we think is an appropriate level of protection.” Public safety is a key critical function of government, I agree, but we shouldn’t buy it at the expense of our other liberties. Whether they’re lost to a terrorist’s bomb to to the government trying to stop the terrorists, once those rights are gone, they’re never, ever coming back. If we let cowards change the way we live or lives, if we let government tell us how much privacy we should have or how much of other essential freedoms we need to have or how much we should be willing to surrender, well, I’m not sure I know what we’re fighting for anyway.

2. Moving the Goal Posts. I’m a tiny cog in a vast machine. As such, I’m cognizant that I have almost no control over my own schedule and even less influence over setting the agenda… but honest to God, I’ve had the same meeting scheduled and cancelled three times over the course of two days. Priorities shift, sometimes on short notice. That’s fine. I’m all for improvising, adapting, and overcoming. The hurry up and wait mentality is as old as the institution I serve – far older really. I have a suspicion that the Greek and Roman bureaucracies were not strangers to WTF moments. Expecting a schedule that everyone can agree to and stick with is a pipe dream… but that doesn’t make the constant moving goal posts any less obnoxious.

3. Thursday. Screw you, Thursday. You use to be cool. You use to be thirsty. You use to have dime drafts. Now you’re just as much a crank as any of the other weekdays – just another work-a-day trudging towards the weekend. Not even your neighbor Friday is good for much of anything these days. He’s in a pissy mood until the middle of the afternoon, so I don’t really have much use for him either. The only thing that makes either one of your tolerable is that the path to Saturday runs right through you. That’s the only reason you’re not dead to me.

First contact…

One of the truisms of war is that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Having successful spent my career not attacking anything more important than the boxes of doughnuts people bring to work, I’m just going to proceed based on the assumption that it’s a true statement. Maybe I shouldn’t think of the office as combat. Clearly it’s not quite a healthy thought process, but nevertheless it feels apt. No one should be surprised to find out that I start just about every day with a plan – whether it’s where I’m going, what I want to get accomplished, whatever. It’s a plan. And for as many weekdays as I can remember, that plan has been shot to hell no later than 8AM. I’m sure there are good and valid reasons for that and I remain exceptionally happy that I am in no way, shape, or form even remotely thought of as a decision maker. Still. Some days I sit in my cube and want to respond to every email with one word: Nuts!

If it was good enough for Bastogne, it seems like it should be good enough for me too.

A taxing case of hypotheticals…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of tax-free shopping on the internet. Of course I know that theoretically I’m supposed to self-report and pay Maryland state sales taxes due on the items I purchase, but… Yeah. I’m going to invoke the 5th Amendment and not discuss the particulars of what I may or may not do.

As a Republican, I should probably be up in arms about this “new” tax, but as a Constitutionalist, it’s pretty well established (i.e. expressly written) that the Congress has every right to fiddle with interstate commerce as it sees fit. As much as I wish it otherwise, my reading of the tea leaves is that the collection of state income taxes by internet retailers is going to become a fact of life sooner rather than later. Do I like it? No, of course not. Am I going to gird myself for battle against it? No, not so much. I’ve got limited brain power and limited time to dedicate to causes and this isn’t going to become part of the long list of the windmills I enjoy tilting at from time to time.

If I were a good patriot who disagrees with state and federal tax policy, I’d hypothetically vote with my dollars – and have as many hypothetical major purchases as possible shipped for in store pickup in Delaware, where at least for the time being can hypothetically continue to avoid onerous state sales taxes and excessive commercial regulation. Of course if I were really to take by business out of state, I’d obviously file the appropriate quarterly tax forms with the Comptroller of Maryland in accordance with whatever batshit crazy laws the legislature has passed.

Year three…

This rental house on the Elk Neck peninsula was supposed to be an expedient. It was available immediately and met my criteria of having a fence and room for the dogs. With a kitchen and bathroom that I can only generously describe as “dated” and with what I still think of as an oddball three-level layout, it was really the only option I looked at because it had the supreme virtue of being available. That’s a bit of a concern when you’ve driven halfway across the continent and every stick of your belongings are following along less than 24 hours behind you.

I never intended this place to be a long term commitment. The plan was to do a year and be out to something bigger, better, and more importantly, something my own. Of course the housing market continued to tank, the notion of taking on a 3rd mortgage got even more farfetched, and inertia set in. Let’s just say I couldn’t (and still can’t) muster much interest in packing everything up and just moving from Rental A to Rental B. If I’m going to jam everything back into boxes, it’s going to be to go somewhere with a little more permanence… and between pay freezes and impending furloughs that’s not happening in the immediate future.

Once I managed to get the asshat property manager out of the way and started dealing directly with the owners, at least the “retail” side of being a renter again got easier. That counts for more than you’d think… which is why I just renewed the lease out through June 2014. It’s not optimal and certainly not where I expected I’d be three years on. I’ve come to think of it as the blood sacrifice I’ve had to pay for getting my feet back on the good earth of my native state. At least that’s the story I tell myself to keep it from being too aggravating.

Stories from July…

Well, since you’re reading this, you should know that we’ve made it all the way to July 2007 in the latest round of updating posts from the archive. Based on what I’ve read this morning, it must have been one annoying month. Between going down with some kind of sickness, being accosted by traveling Baptists, and reaffirming my deep suspicion of those who drive minivans, it at least makes for some interesting reading. Since one of the posts was short (no, really – like two sentences short), I threw in a 6th post to this week’s update at no extra cost. You can thank me later.

I hope you’ll enjoy this little visit to 2007 as much as I’ve enjoyed making it available. Oh, and if you think our Defense Department are the kings of wasteful spending, take a look at Flock of Seagulls…, I’m pretty sure the World War I British War Office has us beat hands down.