What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Short weeks feel the longest. Why is it that a four day week feels at least twice as long as its standard five day counterpart? I’m sure there’s some deep psychoanalytical reason for it, but regardless it’s just stupid. Stupid and wrong. They say time flies when you’re having fun. Clearly “they” are full of shit and it flies when you’re just barely keeping your head above water too.

2. Furlough Fridays. Look, if you’re going to start letting me stay home on Fridays, how about not waiting for six weeks to kick off the new schedule. I’m more or less resolved that it’s the new reality, but there’s really no reason at this point not to dive in to the three day weekends right away. I mean that seems like the least echelons higher than reality could to to ease our transition to part time employees.

3. The birthday thing. I generally try to be a good sport because, well, it seems to be expected, but really I’d be just as happy if the whole birthday thing would pass as discreetly as possible. Some people want to celebrate for a week or the whole month. When the time comes, I’ll open a good bottle of wine, salute my good fortune at having managed not to drop dead for another 365 days, and get on with whatever else it was I planned on doing Saturday evening. Chances are I’ll pass the night either with my nose stuck in a good book or trying to write a half-assed one.

4. Bulldog checkups. Winston’s yearly physical and vaccinations are coming up tomorrow afternoon. The only good thing is that if you’re willing to take one of the last appointments of the day on Friday, I can get the vaccinations at half price. Inconvenient? Yes, absolutely… but when you’ve spent five years keeping up with bulldog related vet bills, you learn to take your savings where you can since it’s pretty inevitable they’ll discover something new and interesting that’ll need treated while we’re there.

Why we blog…

I got an email this afternoon from “a new media agency headquartered in the UK” wondering if I was “interested in selling advertising space on jeffreytharp.com.” The sender promises that advertisements would be unobtrusive and that they can pay an annual upfront payment for the advertising space. While the email does track back to an IP address in Uxbridge, England it’s safe to say that it qualifies as one of those sounds too good opportunities.

The truth is, I’m not blogging for advertisers. I’m not blogging to sell banners or to generate click-throughs or even to climb in the Technorati ratings. Mostly I’m blogging because I think I can turn a pretty phrase now and then and it seems that people are kind enough to humor me by reading it on a regular basis. If I happen to sell a few of my own wears in the process, so much the better – but this blog isn’t now and never will be written for the sake of generating a few pennies of advertising revenue. The complete lack of a coherent campaign for selling my own book should pretty much tell you where advertising falls on my list of priorities.

I think everyone that blogs harbors some kind of secret dream of being the next breakaway hit… and while it would be incredible to be on the receiving end of millions of hits a day, if I get there through the merits of the written word, that’s awesome. If it take shilling for some advertising company, well, I’ll keep my day job (at least 4 days a week) and enjoy the 20-30 people who check in around here on a regular basis.

Sometimes you can’t be too cynical…

(c) University of Florida

(c) University of Florida

Government work tends to be one of those odd environments where up is down, good is evil, and logic is nonsense. It feels, at times, like a none-too-subtle combination of Groundhog Day and Dante’s Inferno. Maybe that’s an exaggeration… but only a little. I can say that with a degree of certainty because that’s the kind of day it’s been today.

At just after 11:00 this morning I was handed my formal notice that the United States Government plans to furlough me one day a week beginning on July 8th. Exactly 148 minutes later I received an email congratulating me on ten years of service to the government and notifying me that I’d be getting a certificate at the next office awards ceremony. You’d have to work pretty hard at sending two more discordant messages to your employees. Timing, as they say, is everything… even when it comes to giving with one hand and taking away with the other. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not in a rush to agree to parading across the stage, smiling for the photo op, and pretending that I give a good goddamn about another certificate in my three ring binder.

I’m sure at some point in the distant past, a nice suitable for framing certificate was a fine motivational tool… but unless I can barter that certificate for goods and services, under the circumstances, I think you can understand why I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. I’m going to improvise, adapt, and overcome… but don’t expect that I’ll be thanking anyone for the opportunity.

And people wonder why I’m cynical about almost everything.

Kosovo, MD…

I’ve had the opportunity twice in the last few days to drive through East Baltimore. Usually I try to keep it to the interstates and give the city a wide berth, but sometimes getting right down in it is unavoidable. Since I was there, I couldn’t help but look around a bit… and what I saw was night and day. On one hand, Johns Hopkins seems to be in a constant state of construction, buying up the rotting and decayed properties around it and expanding in every direction. Fifty years from now, they may have single handedly cleaned up that section of the city. That might well be the hospital’s greatest contribution to the state.

N. Patterson Park Ave, 1700 blk - (C) Charm City Vacancy

N. Patterson Park Ave, 1700 blk – (C) Charm City Vacancy

On the other hand, the drive into Druid Hill Park and the Maryland Zoo is a bit like taking a tour of Kosovo circa 1999. With what looked like bombed out and burned down houses and buildings outnumbering active residences and businesses on nearly every block, well, one wonders if it would’t be better to draw some lessons from Detroit and move in with bulldozers, level the ground, and start again. I generally ignore local Baltimore politics because it tends to be so ridiculous, but it seems that what we were seeing yesterday is the working definition of a failed city. Surely there’s a better approach to managing a state’s largest urban area than letting it collapse under its own weight. It’s a stark reminder of what happens when people stop caring about their surroundings and when local government throws up its hands and opts to hope for the best instead of actually doing anything.

There are some truly incredible examples of late Victorian architecture hiding in plain site down there, but they’ve been well and truly overwhelmed by the decay around them. Most are likely too far gone to do anything more than salvage the bits and pieces in advance of the wrecking ball. It’s a shame, really. Baltimore use to be one of America’s great cities. Now, once you’re outside the designated tourist zones or the neighborhoods that have tenaciously hung on or the ones that have been revived, it looks more like a war zone than a first world city.

Archival quality…

It’s Sunday again and I know everyone has been eagerly awaiting their taste of what live was like way back in 2007. I’m happy to present for your perusal, five new (old) posts – the first five from September 2007. From what I can piece together there was alot of travel work work going on during the first half of the month – so interesting that apparently I forgot that September 11th was a thing. Fortunately the drudgery of business travel didn’t keep me from finding something wrong with the neighbors and being sure to tell the whole world about it. Overall, I think it’s a good cross section of the day-to-day mundane thoughts and the more epic ranting that you’ve all come to know and love over the last seven years of blogging.

Without further delay, enjoy your taste of September 2007.


I haven’t lived in Western Maryland since the summer I graduated from college… Almost eight years ago now. For the first time in those eight years when it was time to leave, I found myself searching for a reason to stay. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, really. Intellectually, I know there is no practical reason for me to live there. I certainly can’t work and since no work means no money, that’s an obvious non-starter. Yet somehow, the home of my youth calls me. I know it was just a passing fancy, but still, something that caught me by surprise simply because it was so unusual.


In about a month, I’ll be recovering from my first trip to Ocean City since sometime around 2002. If I’m remembering history correctly, that trip involved a one-night layover and an excessive amount of drinking at Seacrets… and I seem to recall that it was March, so not exactly beach weather. That didn’t prevent NAME REDACTED from dragging his Ocean City Postcardhungover self across the beach to jump in the water on a dare… ah, the dumb shit 20-something guys do when they don’t have any adult supervision. Of course, that’s not really the point.

If you grew up in Western Maryland in the 1970s and 80s, Ocean City was the place to be in the summer. That was before the mass exodus to Myrtle Beach for a more “family friendly” beach experience. OCMD was grittier to be sure, but it’s where my impressions of what a beach vacation is were built. I’ve spent time on beaches up and down the East Coast from the Jersey Shore through the Carolinas. I’ve enjoyed beach time on the Adriatic and on the worn smooth stones in the shadow of the Brighton Pier. I’ve sucked down rum drinks in the protected coves of St. Thomas and had three months of weekends parked on the sand at Waikiki, but Ocean City is still where I think of whenever I think of “going to the beach.”

It’s not fancy. It’s not built for old money… but It’s where Maryland goes when it goes to the beach. Salt air, liquid refreshment, Thrasher’s fries, and good company… Yeah, it’s hard to believe it’s taken me 730-odd days to make the trip.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Instead of sending me an email saying my statement is available, how about you just email me the effing statement and save me half a dozen clicks, a password entry, and hunting around your site looking for my statement. I know you’re trying to drive traffic to your craptastic site so you can generate more ad revenue, but you’re using a really douchy and inconvenient method of making that happen… and that virtually guarantees that I won’t even consider buying whatever your marketing geniuses are trying to sell. Sure, the email notice is better than paper, but just barely.

2. The Cloud. About a year ago, we suffered through a veritable avalanche of reminders “Make Sure to back up your C: drive to the cloud.” This week we’re suffering from a flood of equal and opposite reminders to go clean up the files we’ve stored in the cloud, it’s taking up too much space on the server. Sigh. Yes, networked storage costs money, but its not that much money. And really, being able to revive a document you worked on three years ago that’s suddenly relevant again is pretty much priceless.

3. Dogs. Most of the time, dogs are perfectly happy leading their lives of sleeping, eating, going outside, and repeating ad infinitum until the end of days. Every now and then, though, they decide to change things up… for absolutely no apparent reason. Or maybe it’s just me who can’t figure out why a dog would come into the kitchen after spending half an hour outside, grin at you (and yes, I’m quite sure she grinned), and drop an enormous deuce on the floor. I love these dogs like most people love their kids… but sometimes I’m amazed that anyone puts up with having the little heathens living in their home.

Blank page…

Some days no matter how hard you squeeze, the old brain just doesn’t have anything to give. That’s when you end up with one of these rambling posts that doesn’t seem to say anything and ends without ever coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Maybe it’s not true for every blogger, but for me, I don’t think there’s any greater enemy than the blank page… except maybe when that blank page coincides with a completely empty bucket of ideas. Maybe I should just embrace the nightmare and take a day off every now and then, but I can’t shake the feeling that it would be cheating somehow. Even a habit as deeply engrained in my schedule as blogging every day enjoys a perilous place on my much-valued daily schedule. Miss it for a day, or two, or five and God only knows when I’ll get it back in the lineup. One of the many joys of being a creature of habit, I suppose.

So yeah, there’s plenty going on in the world, but to continue with what seems to be the theme of the week, the worse the news gets, the less I care about the world and the more I care about me and mine. Maybe that’s a character flaw… or maybe it’s a thousand generations of human history screaming that the best any of us can really do is making right by our own circle of family and friends. Then again, I’m just a half-assed blogger so you might want to take that with a grain of salt. I, on the other hand, will be taking it with a cool refreshing rum drink.