What Jeff Likes this Week

As I’ve discovered after two weeks of planning for What Jeff Likes this Week, there’s the easy answer and the one that’s a little more involved. The easy answer is a no brainer: I like long holiday weekends. Four days feels just about like the right balance between relaxation and boredom. With that said we’re going to go ahead and dive a little deeper this week to see what I really like.

The answer, for anyone sticking with the story this far, is dogs. I like dogs. Maggie and Winston are perfectly happy jumping out of bed in the dark hours of the morning and getting their day started. They’re ready to go and do whatever it is I’m ready to go and do. A jangle of the keys is enough to motivate them towards the door and a long car ride. They’re not angry when plans change and don’t expect to be consulted before major decisions are made. In short, aside from from regular feeding, the pursuit of undivided attention, and the finest of modern veterinary care, they are remarkably undemanding creatures – satisfied in being part of whatever is going on around them.

In my experience, dogs don’t have ulterior motives. They’re actions are’t distorted by the race to get ahead. They’re not going to betray your trust or break your heart. They’re going to be the most unquestionably loyal creature in your life… unless they think they can get away with stealing food and then all bets are off. I think most of us can agree that’s perfectly understandable anyway.

It’s no secret that I like dogs and animals in general more than most people. For anyone who has spent any time dealing with people, I’m surprised that’s not the case universally – or maybe it is and the rest of the world is just too polite to say it out loud.

Note: This is the 2nd feature in a six-part series appearing on jeffreytharp.com by request.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Grown adults. I’m totally on board with kids being excited to see the snow. I’ll even forgive students who are excited at getting the day off. What I don’t think I will ever come to grips with are grown ass adults who crowd around the window eyes agog whispering and tee-heeing. Yes, it’s snowing. No, it’s not all that exciting. If you don’t stare askance out the window on a typical rainy day, there’s not much call to do it just because the temperature happens to be below 32 degrees. I know not everyone has gainful work to do on the day before a Thanksgiving, but I’m over here madly trying to get something wrapped up and off my desk before everyone makes a break for it so if you could at least pretend to be productively engaged that would be great.

2. Internet legal experts. You know, I’d have a lot more respect for the deluge of legal “opinions” smothering the country if I had any sense at all that the people behind those opinions had any sense of the purpose of a grand jury or the basic concepts of how the legal system works. Although I taught basic civics, I’d never have the audacity to claim undisputed knowledge about the intricacies and vagaries of the American judicial system. I do however know enough to be certain I’m not expert. That’s why I’ve not made many comments on the particular case du jure. While I haven;t hidden my opinion, I opted not to take to the interwebs to dazzle the world with it. I’d far rather stay quiet and be thought a fool than open my mouth and remove all doubt. It’s a shame the average American internet poster isn’t as circumspect.

3. Email. I was away from my desk most of last week, so when I stumbled in to the office on Monday I had approximately 900 emails waiting for me. Of those, I reduced 600 that were either overcome by events, spam, messages I was copied on for no apparent reason, or otherwise emails that didn’t require an action on my part besides hitting delete. Of the 300 remaining messages, 2/3 were of minor importance directly to me, were confirmations, status updates, or otherwise information that required little more than a “yes,” “no,” or “acknowledged” in way of response. That left approximately 100 messages that legitimately needed my attention, that required substantial thought, or that I needed to farm out to others in an effort to generate a response. We all could have saved a lot of time this week if the first 600 “so what” emails had never been sent. We could have saved a little more time if we collectively stopped to consider if we really needed to send any one of the next 200 messages. More importantly, I wouldn’t be scrambling around at the end of the 3rd day of mailbox clearing trying to respond to the 100 that really mean something if I hadn’t needed to wade through the other 800 emails to find those little gems. My point? Email is a tool, but you don’t have to be. Please use your distribution lists and the reply all button for good instead of evil.

For the love of our game…

If there’s anything more thankless than going in to the office and trying to get some work done on the day before Thanksgiving, it’s got to be posting a blog later that same night when it’s virtually guaranteed that absolutely no one is going to be paying attention. The only thing in my favor is that here on the east coast we got the first snow of the season, so many potential readers might just be sitting the night out at home. I’m not holding my breath on that, of course, which is why you’re reading this process piece instead of seeing anything remotely resembling meaty content.

After more years that I want to think about, I really do have a sense for how scheduling drives the number of posts. It’s a blessing and a curse since it means sometimes I’ll withhold some good writing until I know more than a few people will be paying attention. It also drives the fact that I almost never post on Friday and Saturday. Sadly the world has better things to do on those days than listen to another blow hard ranting on the internet. I’m not selling any advertising here, but still it’s nice to know that what you write has got a fighting chance of being seen… because no matter how much noise we make about writing for ourselves and not for an audience, we really, really want the audience.

So as you’re sitting there, toasty warm in front of your pre-Thanksgiving fire, sipping your nog (or whatever it is you’re supposed to sip at Thanksgiving), think of the poor harried bloggers out there smashing away at their keyboards and wanting nothing more than a few more people to drop by their site. Take a little time tonight and poke around WordPress or Blogger and there’s a good chance you’ll run across someone whose voice you need to hear. It’s a jungle out there, but there are some incredibly good writers too who are just churning it out for the love of our particular game.

Kris Kreeper…

santa-flasherI don’t generally “do” Christmas music. It tends to make me want to jam pointy objects into my ears. However, being the season, the occasional festive tune is unavoidable. The one I’ve been hearing most thanks to a television advertisement for something I’ve already forgotten about is Santa Clause is Coming to Town. It’s cute. It’s endearing. And it makes the gift giving fat man sound like a world class creeper.

Ponder if you will the lines:

He sees you when you’re sleeping;
He knows when you’re awake;
He knows if you’ve been bad or good…

Does this sound like the casual level of interest that most people have in one another? Of course not. It sounds like the misguided and deviant actions of a stalker. The song itself warns that “You better watch out.” And yet year after year, we’ve perpetuated the myth to generations of children that it’s not just acceptable but encouraged for this kind of person to sneak into their home in the dead of night while their family sleeps.

Kris Kringle, the purveyor of elfin-made gifts, or Kris Kreeper, the pervert in our midst? Take a good hard look and I think you’ll know the right answer. Good God, where’s the moral outrage?

A more gullible mark…

I’m not an ad man. Marketing is the very last thing in the world I would turn my considerable brain power towards. I’m just not that interested in begging and pestering people into doing things. Being a cynic by nature and long habit, I’m always a little skeptical of what people who do marketing for a living tell me. Actually that’s not true. I have a tendency not to believe any words that slither past their forked tongues. I just assume they know that’s an occupational hazard of being professional liars.

How I know you’re not a very reputable (or at least a very good) marketing firm is when you call my mother trying to reach me to discuss “exiting opportunities for marketing your book.” I lived at the old homestead long enough that I’m sure my name will forever show up in the public records next to a phone number where you haven’t been able to regularly reach me since 1998. However, there are surely plenty of other bits of information in that same public record that indicate that hasn’t been my phone number in quite some time. I’d expect even a half-assed marketing firm to be able to noggin that out for themselves before picking up the receiver.

I’m not going to call out this company by name, because I won’t give them the benefit of even the barest level of free publicity for themselves and whatever scam they happen to be running this week. Suffice to say I’m not interested. I might have at least been willing to look at options if they had availed themselves of any of the 647 other ways to get in touch with me, but since they opted for the easy and obviously wrong approach, I’m afraid they don’t even rate sufficiently to justify a personal rejection.

Although I appreciate your contacting the Jeffrey Tharp Childhood Home, Library, and Gift Shop, it’s not owned and operated by complete effing morons so I’m afraid you’ll have to go out and find yourselves a more gullible mark.

What Jeff Likes this Week

It’s harder than you might thing to pinpoint what I like this week. I’m going to attribute that to the fact that the last seven days were brutal even in the face of my already pessimistic expectations. It’s tempting to say that the only thing I really like about the past week is the fact that it’s now over. That would be the easy answer. It would also have the benefit of being a statement of fact. It’s a happy coincidence when those two fall into line together.

Although it would be the easy and truthful answer, there’s something slightly more tangible that should come at the top of this week’s list – the fact that this past Monday saw the total number of people working in my office increase by 66%. That’s an impressive figure at first blush, though it loses some of its luster when you realize that even with those additional hands we’re still only staffed at 56% of the total number of people we had when I started working there.

Still, I’m glad to see two more bodies available to throw into the fight. It buys a little more breathing room. It means there might be a chance to actually be a little thoughtful and do a little analysis before recommending a course of action. It means there’s the ghost of a chance of doing more than hoping for the best from week after week of responding to situations with little more than knee jerk reactions.

So, if anyone asks, what Jeff likes this week is the simple fact that two people showed up. Now of course how long they stick around is another matter entirely. I’m happy enough leaving that for a different post at a different time.

Note: This is the 1st in a six-part series appearing on jeffreytharp.com by request.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Failure to RtGE. If you’re attending an event and the people (person) responsible for planning it send you a confirmation message, it might be helpful to go ahead and Read the Goddamned Email. You never know, it might just be filled with all manner of helpful information, links, instructions, and answers to all the questions your apparently illiterate ass would rather jam my inbox and voicemail with asking individually. At most, I’m just going to forward the email that you already have. At worst I’m going to ignore you. It depends entirely on my mood.

2. Door slammers. I’ve always been under the impression that when you’re exiting an auditorium it’s basically common decency to make sure the door doesn’t slam behind you. Particularly when you’ve been there for a few hours and certainly have heard the thunderous clanging the door makes when it slams shut. Or maybe not… because it’s obviously more cost effective to just go ahead and require stationing two “doormen” on site, each who earn into six figures a year, for three days in an effort to minimize the incessant banging and distraction to everyone sitting in the last 20 rows.

3. Wearing out your welcome. If you’re still milling around flapping your gums when someone walks over to the breaker box and starts turning off the lights, you have overstayed your welcome. The fact that you’re the last six people in a 1000 person auditorium and the lights are off are an unmistakable sign that you need to take your ass elsewhere. Rest assured that after 13 hours on my feet, your dirty looks are the very least of the things I could possibly care about.

4. Name dropping. Something to keep in mind is that I’m not in any way impressed by who you work for or what names you drop. I’m not entirely sure what kind of people fall all over themselves because you think you have weight to throw around, but believe me when I say that you don’t… and even if you did, I really wouldn’t care.

Day three…

It’s the third day in a row that I’ve been late getting away from the office. If anyone despises this turn of events more than me, it’s Maggie and Winston. Thanks to their upbringing to take joy in the marvel of a well executed routine, they’re finding the whole thing unsettling. The net result is from the time I do get home until lights out these two are attached even more closely to my hips than usual. I don’t see the week getting any more “regular” from here on to the end. In fact the next two days at a minimum can be relied upon to have a monumental amount of stupid baked right in.

I don’t think I’ve pulled a legitimate 12 hour shift since Hurricane Dean threatened the Gulf Coast in 2007. It’s not a level of effort I’m particularly eager to reprise. Even though I’ll be made whole for those additional hours at a later date I really have gotten to the point with this fiasco that eight hours at a time is more than enough to test what little patience I have left. Given their attitudes over the last few nights it’s clear that the dogs agree with me.

No promises

I do my level best not to let a trifle like work interfere with the important work of blogging and trying to deliver my next sarcasm-laden book to an expectant world. Most days I’m successful on that front. This week, my expectations are somewhat more limited. Tonight for example I’m sitting here at the computer just barely able to keep my eyes open. It’s the second night in a row that I’ve been at least an hour late heading home and on balance the week should only really get worse from here.

I’ll make every effort to keep up with fresh posts for the duration, but let me go on record as making absolutely no promises in that regard. At the rate this week is currently spiraling out of control, by this time tomorrow it’s possible I’ll be subsisting entirely on a diet of coffee and whatever I can find from a vending machine. By Thursday I’m beginning to think I’ll have lost the capacity for coherent speech and default to communicating through prehistoric grunts and pointing in the general direction of what I want.

As far as I can tell at the moment, this week plans to be nothing but a time thief and that means you’ll have to suffer right along with me… so please forgive me for whatever drivel ends up filling these otherwise respectable pages over the next few days.

Challenge accepted…

Every Thursday night for the last two years, you’ve all been treated to a brief glimpse into what slights and outrages are simmering in my head as the week rolls towards its end. What Annoys Jeff this Week is consistently the most read post of the week and probably comes closest to capturing what I think of as my “authentic voice.” It’s a mostly unfiltered dump directly from my head onto the page and has probably saved me tens of thousands of dollars in psychoanalysis bills.

For some time earlier this year, Sunday mornings were reserved for reposting the “lost blogs” from MySpace and Blogger. They weren’t met with quite as much interest as WAJTW, but having a weekly theme did give me an uptick in traffic for Sunday mornings – no small thing on a day and time when most people are otherwise engaged with other than web-based activities.

This past Thursday a challenge was issued by one of my good and loyal readers to adapt my format slightly and offer a once a week post featuring What Jeff Likes this Week. I wasn’t immediately drawn to the idea. Most weeks I’d be hard pressed to come up with three items to talk about. Knowing this, my challenger graciously offered to let me get away with just expounding on one thing each week.

Challenge accepted. Beginning on Sunday, November 23rd and running every Sunday through the end of the year, you’ll be reading a new weekly mini-feature right here at jeffreytharp.com. I’m still kicking around actual titles, but the suggestions What Slightly Manages Not to Bug Jeff too Much this Week and What Jeff is Mostly Indifferent About this Week continue to be strong contenders.

Check back next Sunday to see what I come up with.