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.

25,000…

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.

A short December…

Yeah in and year out, December regularly has the lowest readership of any month of the year. Everyone is busy and that’s to be expected while they’re attempting to fill the world with their personal version of holiday cheer. I mean, I can’t really expect everyone to drop their Christmas planning just because a new post or two show up on the internet. The logical result is that December became something of a dumping ground around here. Since the numbers weren’t on my side, posts got less frequent, shorter, and weren’t exactly “A” level material in a lot of cases. I like to think more recent Decembers have seen that trend reverse a bit as I try to keep the focus on delivering quality pith every day of the year.

December 2007 was seriously short on posts. It looks like I was only managing to get my act together every three or four days back then… and what did show up was often super short and lacked the snark that I think helps define jeffreytharp.com.

What does that mean to you? Well, instead of dribbling them out over two weeks, I’ve taken the unprecedented step of posting the entire month’s worth of material in one go. With these 10 posts, we can bring 2007 to an end. Next sunday, I hope you’ll join me as we launch headlong into 2008. With only ten months and 14,000 words of archive material left to post, this little project is closer to its end than its beginning. I still think it’s been a worthwhile effort if only to remind me about how ridiculous our own pasts can sound when we have the benefit of hindsight.

What you get…

What you get when you’ve got a guy who’s a little too attached to his routine and an extra day off every week is a list of things that usually takes until mid-day Sunday to accomplish being done before noon on Saturday. That’s not the worst problem to have, of course, but it does point towards needing to revise the weekly to do list to account for an additional 24 hours of non-scheduled time. I told myself I’d get down to the business of outlining a few potential ideas for a new book, but from this post you can imagine for yourself how that’s going so far.

So yeah, here we are on Saturday afternoon with absolutely nothing pressing to get into. I’m flipping through my three-ring binder of comfort food recipes trying to light onto something that sounds good for dinner tonight. As for the rest, it looks like maybe I’ll get some reading done and get some quality time with the kids… or maybe I can get started on building the bigger tortoise habitat that I sketched out a few months ago. Seriously, having this much regular free time on on hands is freaking me out a little.

What I did on my Furlough Friday…

I really should just be staying home, conserving resources, and bitching online about the monumental contempt in which I hold the elected “leaders” of this country, but instead I cooked an actual breakfast this morning and knocked around with the dogs. Washed some clothes, did some dishes, and made myself presentable. I trolled around a few of the local pawn shops looking for deals on a couple of specific items and found out that grocery shopping at 1PM on a Friday is every bit as good as 8AM on Sunday. I’ll be keeping that little secret in mind for the next nine weeks. I cut the grass and decided even I’m not obsessive enough to do an hour’s worth of trimming in 100 degree heat. No worries, this weekend still has two more days and I’m sure obsession will trump heat at some point.

So now that everyone else has started their weekend too, here I sit, nursing a Red Stripe, trying hard to coax a few hundred words onto the page. If I’m bluntly honest with everyone, the beer is disappearing far faster than the words are showing up, so there probably won’t be much to salvage by the time it wraps up this evening. Maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. Fortunately, the words always seem to show up eventually, even when I don’t know exactly where they’re coming from. However it happens, I’ll take them all.

So yeah, Furlough Friday #2 (or Saturday Part 1 if you prefer) was as much of a success as one can reasonably expect under the circumstances. It’s still new and different. Ask me a month from now and you’ll likely hear a different opinion.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Responsibility. As a grown ass adult, you have certain responsibilities. One of those is to be where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there. That goes double if you’re going to try passing yourself off as a professional. Yep, sometimes that means you’re going to have to play hurt, or when you have other things on your mind. It’s the way of the world, so suck it up, Rolling Stone Bomberbuttercup. When you’re the only one impacted by your piss poor decision making skills, I say do what you want and God bless… but when your decision make someone else deal with the consequences, you’re pretty much just as asshat.

2. Rolling Stone. From the perspective of having any tact or class as an organization, Rolling Stone has basically let the world know for sure that they have none. Look, if they want to run a magazine with the Boston bomber on the cover, they’re perfectly within their rights. All I’d ask is that don’t hide behind the cover of being responsible journalists tackling a hard story head on. If they came out and admitted they put that douchenozzle on the cover because they thought they were going to sell a gagillion copies of it, I’d say thanks for the truth and God bless. They’d be right and it would collectively be our fault because we Americans will buy up those magazines by the bushel basket. The only reason that smug bastard is looking out at us from the newsstand is because we’ll eat it up and pay for the privilege. Rolling Stone knows that… and we live through another example of the citizens of this fine country not having the common sense God gave a goose.

3. Standing by to stand by. I think by now we all know how I feel about meetings in general. In a decade’s worth of work, I’ve attended less than a handful that left me feeling like they were time well spent. That’s situation normal in the bureaucracy. What really grinds my gears, though is the mentality that the average drone has nothing better to do than sit around and wait for the next meeting to start. Don’t schedule something at 11:00, then slip it to 11:30, then pass the word to wait and see, and to be prepared to stand by to stand by until further notice. In a world of 32 hour work weeks and 80% pay, the least we can expect is that the limited time we do have on the clock is respected and used productively. Or maybe that’s a bridge too far.