Wrong gear…

It’s the end of July. The part of me that spent two years checking off classes good for a teaching degree and then spent 28 months actually teaching still rebels this time of year. Some people go into teaching because they have a passion for their field. Some do it because they like kids and want to “touch the future.” That always seemed like a particularly pervy phrase to me, but I digress. The point is, I mostly went into teaching because it seemed like a great way to maximize time not working.

By now the average teacher is probably yelling at me about all the time they spend prepping, planning, grading, collaborating, talking to parents, and taking refreshed training after class, on weekends, and over the summer. My solution to that was to simply not do those things. I was usually in my room 30 minutes before the first bell only because that gave me time to eat whatever breakfast I picked up on my way in from the house and the busses barely cleared the parking lot before I was headed for the doors at the end of the day. As for grading on the weekends, at night, or at some other time when I wasn’t getting paid for it? Yeah. Forget about it. I guess someone people work for love, but I’ve always been more a “work for money” type of guy. Maybe that’s another reason the whole teaching career never took off, but again I digress.

What I seem to have at the moment is a distinct lack of motivation and the deep seated wish that all manner of jobs came with a 45-day chunk of free time right around the middle of summer. Sure, I’m making sure the paper shuffles from here to there, but in my head isn’t even in the same city as the ballpark where the game’s being played. That’s not a good long-term plan. Once the days start getting shorter and the nights cooler, I’ll snap back to reality. Right now I feel like a car running in the wrong gear – still moving forward, but doing it in a monumentally inefficient way… and you just can’t fix that shit with more cowbell.

August: By Request…

It’s been a while since I’ve opened up the request lines around here. With July rolling to a close, the summer doldrums well in place, and realizing that I can’t write about sequester and furlough every day and expect 99% of you to keep reading, it seems like as good a time as any to let someone else do a bit of the heavy lifting involved in topic selection.

11182-i-love-question-markThe rules are simple and straightforward:

1. You pose a question or identify a topic of your choice. Be ruthless, I’m looking for a challenge. Just don’t ask about math. I don’t do math.

2. I carefully hand craft a response and post it on jeffreytharp.com for your amusement.

I’m tempted to say that nothing is off limits, but there’s not a chance in hell that I’m giving you jerks passwords or account information just because you were froggy enough to ask for it. With a very few limitations, though, the gloves are off so feel free to pick your topics and ask your questions with reckless abandon.

I’ll keep the request line open for the entire month of August (or until I get tired of it), so the sooner you leave me a comment, the sooner I can get on with the serious work of writing a sarcastic response.

Half and half…

As part of the Magical Mystery Furlough of 2013, half the people stay home on Mondays and the other half stay home on Fridays. It’s one of those ideas that sound better in theory than it operates in practice. The logic was that inflicting the furlough on two separate days would mean that offices were open and “servicing the customer” during normal business hours. Like I said, it sounds fine in theory. I mean what customer doesn’t enjoy a good servicing, no?

What’s really happened, of course, is both Monday and Friday have become bureaucratic dead zones – the lights are on, there are a few people around, and we can officially say that Quadragonthe office is “open.” Just don’t try to get much done because odds are at least half of the people you need to talk to are scheduled out on the opposite Furlough Day. It’s hard to believe no one at echelons higher than reality saw that coming.

What we end up with is a functional work week that takes place only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday because that’s the only time most people make it to the office nowadays. That’s not taking into account the people who are out in the normal course of using vacation days or sick time. Since no meetings were harmed in carrying out this furlough, anything that was usually scheduled on Monday or Friday now takes place on one of the other days too. That’s not even accounting for the meetings we now have to have to talk specifically about the impacts of sequestration and the furlough. Far be it for me to criticize, but let’s just say productive time is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

The lights are on. We can say we’re still open five days a week. But what’s been lost in productivity is far greater than the sum of everyone’s collective 20% reduction of hours. Maybe this whole asinine exercise will save Uncle a penny or two on the dollar, but what he’s losing in the productivity, morale, dedication, and respect of his employees will cost him a shitload more than that in the long run.

It’s a new year…

It’s a new year, or at least it’s a new year in the archives. This morning the calendar rolled forward to 2008 and I’m happy to deliver up for you the first five posts from January. If I’m remembering the year right, it was one of those perfect storms of family obligations, trying to slog through to the end of grad school, slowly starting to realize that I wasn’t as in love with work as I thought I was, and the usual malcontentery that you find here on a regular basis. Not all of those themes come through in this first set of posts, but that should give you the flavor of what was banging around in my head when they first appeared on ye olde MySpace blog.

Each of today’s archive posts first appeared over five years ago now. It’s remarkable how some things change and some feel like they’re in exactly the same place they were 2000 days ago. Life’s funny like that.

Without any further suspense, go ahead and check out the archive for January 2008.

Bloggers in love…

I read alot of blogs, but there are only a handful that I check on a regular basis. Two of my favorites are soooooo clearly hot to trot for each other. They’re bloggers in love. Which, from what I can tell based on the recent spate of posting, has much in common with teenagers in love. There’s plenty of cross posting, comments, and reblogging from one another’s sites. There’s plenty of not-so-subtile flirting flying in from every direction. Yeah, it’s alot like high school except the writing is better – which I suppose makes it not really like high school at all. Still, I suppose it’s better than pulling pigtails and running away.

Anyway, rather than reaching for something original this morning, I thought I’d plug my two favorite bloggers in love today. Go check out Becca at 25ToFly and the Adam at Chowderhead. You’ll be glad you did.

What I Did on My Furlough Day (Part 3 of 11)

Someone furloughed shouldn’t be working as hard as I am. I got up at 6:30 this morning (Hush, that is sleeping in for people who normally wake up around 5:00), drank a pot of coffee, emailed my usual anti-furlough rant to the members of the Maryland Congressional delegation. I thought about calling them out on Facebook and Twitter, but thought better of it since I was on a schedule. I was on a schedule because I had my six month check up with the ol’ sawbones this morning. Ironically, I picked this doctor at least in part because his practice is not far from the office so it would be easy to slip out and back for appointments. Being Furlough Friday, of course, I believe I have discovered a flaw in what was an otherwise logical arrangement. And, please, don’t get me started on their rescheduling the appointment from yesterday to today with about 18 hours notice.

I could turn this into a long story, but I won’t. As usual the doc is annoyed that my blood pressure is good, blood sugar is well within tolerance, and the acid reflux has been gone now for well over a year without meds. They pulled blood in the hopes of finding something wrong, but I have no reason to expect it will come back as anything but “normal” as it always has in the past. So it was a typical visit – lose weight, less meat, nothing over 10g of sugar.

OK, look, doc. At some point we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about not just health, but also quality of life. Maybe if I eat nothing but tofu, almond milk, and salad with no dressing for the rest of my days I’ll live to be 106… but I’m not sure 71 years without steak, pizza, craft beer, or blue cheese dressing is a world I wish to inhabit. Sure, I’d be alive, but I’m not sure I’d really be living.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Furlough payday. Holy balls. Even when you’ve run the numbers and have a good solid sense of what’s coming, no amount of tinkering around on a spreadsheet really prepares you for Uncle Sam reaching deep into your wallet and financially raping you. Repeatedly. A week ago, I was philosophically opposed to Sequestration and the resultant furlough. With the arrival of my most recent direct deposit, I’ve transition more into a mode of going out to the shed to see if I have a pitchfork and a few torches to spare. It strikes me that if I were alive and in Boston on December 16, 1773, I would have probably been heaving boxes of tea overboard with a smile on my face. It seems that although I don’t particularly like the rabble, I do enjoy rousing them.

2. George. While I would like to thank the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for naming their offspring in honor of my Tortoise, I am utterly vexed when it comes to understanding why the good people of the United States spent half a dozen days buzzing about it. If we were the United Colonies or a member of the Commonwealth, I could understand being interested in the birth of our President_Barack_Obamafuture head of state, but since we’re citizens and not subjects, I’m at a loss. How many other 30-something couples in the UK had babies this week? How many people in your town had babies? Know how much we all care about them? Yeah. We don’t. I say Godspeed to Wills and Kate, but knowing that they had a baby and that he will sit the throne long after most people alive today have shuffled off the stage is a sufficient report. There’s no need to get our collective nickers in a twist.

3. POTUS. When I hear the president on television talking about growing middle class jobs, increasing spending on education, and generally touting his plan to improve the economy, I only have one thought these days. That thought: WTF? As the head of the executive branch, the president could take one giant step towards improving the plight of the middle class by directing his Secretary of Defense to cancel the administrative furloughs of 650,000 civilian employees. Before he has any credibility on any issue that even tangentially touches on pay, benefits, and employment, the man needs to keep the promises made to the folks already working for him. What I think I understand so far is when large corporations load up on part time employees to keep costs down, it’s evil and wrong, but when the largest agency of the federal government does it it’s a prudent cost savings measure. WTF, Mr. President? WTF?

No Filter, or The Vortex of Asshattery…

One of my first acts upon moving back here to the People’s Democratic Republic of Maryland was make a stop into one of the local wholesale warehouse clubs and lay in essential supplies in bulk. 100 rolls of toilet paper and 20 rolls of paper towels, 10 gallons of dish soap and a 50-pound tub of laundry detergent – you know, the basics of setting up a new household. A few hundred bucks later, I also walked out with a 900-count pack of coffee filters.

I only mention it because I used the last of that 900-pack this morning, which got me thinking not so much about coffee as it did the fact that I’ve been back from Tennessee for a little over two years now. It feels like I got back about a week and a half ago. Apparently time flies regardless of whether you’re having fun or not, although I have to admit the last 784 days have been a hell of a lot more fun than the 784 days that preceded them, so it’s definitely a net win overall. I’m furloughed, making 80% of my advertised salary, have two houses I don’t live in, and I’m still having a better time of things than when I was busy dealing with what I’ve affectionately come to think of as the Vortex of Asshattery.

In case you’re trying to do the math, that’s an average of 1.15 twelve-cup pots of coffee brewed every day of the year – or more likely a pot and a half every day once you account for vacations, trips to Western Maryland, and sundry other reasons why I wasn’t home brewing coffee on any given day. Whoever said you can have too much of a good thing clearly didn’t have the proper appreciation for regular infusions of hot caffeine.


Sometime while I was at work today, jeffreytharp.com rolled over the 25,000 view mark. That’s pretty impressive for some random guy posting whatever pops into his head on a website that doesn’t do any actual advertising. The internet never ceases to amaze me with the reach of its long arms. In that 25,000 visits, every continent is represented (except Antarctica). Not a bad voice at all for a kid from down the Crick.

I started blogging in June 2006, wandered around through a host of platforms from MySpace to Blogger and finally here to WordPress. It started as an occasional post, morphed into posts showing up a few times a week, and now a new post shows up, generally, every day. I’ve learned more about writing from keeping this blog and its predecessors than I ever learned in school. I’ve learned more about myself that I thought I wanted to know too. I’ve learned that sometimes I pull my punches and that despite a life largely lived online, there are still elements that I’m never going to feel comfortable making available for public consumption. I use to feel guilty about keeping some part of myself separate from the blog, but I’m past that now.

After seven years of writing, I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t run out of things to say. I’m even more surprised that there are people out there who are legitimately interested in what’s going to show up on these pages next. For a guy not exactly known for his humility, I’ve found that to be incredibly humbling.

For good or bad, every word written on these pages is mine. They each reflect the moment in time that they were written. For those 629 people currently following jeffreytharp.com and for those yet to find this little endeavor, I really do thank you from the bottom of my heart. Even though I’ve said I don’t write for an audience, I have to admit that it’s far more entertaining with everyone along with me for the ride. Let’s see how things look from the 50,000 view level.

Truth to power…

I’m use to getting form letters from my elected representatives. Writing them directly might not count for much in today’s world, but the right to petition our government for redress of grievances is one of the hallmarks of the American democracy. Even as one voice among 300 million it’s not a right that I’m willing to let quietly die or to forgo simply because it doesn’t feel effective.

Like others of a certain age, I also use Facebook and Twitter to make my opinion known. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, these messages to power go unremarked and barely noticed… Which is why I was surprised today to get a reply to my last post on Representative Andy Harris’ Facebook page. It might have had a bit of the form letter flavor, but it at least meant that a staffer had to take the time to note my opinion and provide the appropriate response. That was unexpected.

The government writ large understands two basic things: money and popular opinion. Until I hit that elusive Powerball jackpot, I won’t be hiring my own lobbyist, but the one thing I can do, loud and long, is let my opinion be known at every opportunity. I know there are plenty of people out there who thing I should shut my pie hole and be glad I have a job (even if it is part time for the next 9 weeks), or think that the typical bureaucrat is overpaid, or think the whole damned machine needs to be torn down. That’s fine. We all know that opinions are like a certain anatomical orifice.

I expect and encourage others to have their own opinions, but know now that despite any thoughts to the contrary I will continue to make mine heard through every avenue available to me. To borrow a quote from one of my favorites, I strive to “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Sometimes I’m going to fall well short of that goal, but I’ll be here as long as I can hold out, raising hell and telling truth, as I see it, to power.