1. Coat blowing. I dearly love my ever-loyal, if somewhat ditzy, chocolate labrador. She is the operative definition of a kind and loving soul. But honest to whatever God there is in heaven if she doesn’t stop blowing her winter coat soon I’m going to lose what small slivers of sanity I have managed to hang on to lo these many years. It’s like the whole bleeding house is covered in a fine, slightly fluffy film of dog.
2. The other email. Without delving into any specific details, I have an alternate email address that occasionally gets used for work. In part it’s annoying because I can’t access this account from my desk. Fortunately, almost no one ever uses that address so it’s not completely inconvenient. That being said, if you don’t log into the damned thing about once a week, you start getting nasty messages from the Great Email Monitor threatening to cut off your access. Once they do that you’ve got to start from scratch setting up a new account, which could take as long as 247 work days to complete. Since I really do need this account for about one message ever 8-10 weeks it effectively just creates a barely essential pain in the ass that requires me to set up a calendar reminder to schlep next door once a week to log in, look at an empty inbox, and ensure that the account stays active for another week. You’ll forgive me, I hope, for being only slightly vexed (but not at all surprised) by such a patently inefficient process.
3. Acting surprised. A major musician has died under unclear or suspicious circumstances. I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised that a music superstar might have succumbed to the effects of legal and/or illegal medications. It’s not like this is the first time music and drugs march down the same road. It’s the fact that anyone from fans to media pontificators can pretend such events are anything other than “as expected” that’s farcical. A man is dead and that’s sad enough in its own right, but when it’s self-inflicted I have a hard time finding it an outright tragedy.
For purposes of this post I’m operating under the assumption that we’ve all gone through that awkward phase when we’re dating and actually trying to impress people. While things aren’t quite as awkward as that here in Cubicle Hell, there are certain moments when it feels like it is actually far worse. By way of example, I was stood up today. Twice. I haven’t found myself sitting quietly and quite alone at a table like that since sometime in the late 1990s.
The up side is that being stood up at the office doesn’t generally feature deep, painful rejection of you as a human being or potential sexual partner. It does, however, send the unmistakable signal that your time isn’t worth a tinker’s damn and that the one doing the standing up had something more important to do. Believe it or not, I can almost understand that. I’m a cog way down deep in the belly of the beast. There are absolutely people whose time is more valuable than mine. I understand that with perfect clarity and I’m fine with it.
What I’m not fine with is that no one even bothers with an explanation. Lord knows I’m not sitting around waiting for an apology, but a simple explanation or some acknowledgment that there was some intentional or unintentional pooch-screwing and that as a result your time was wasted would be nice. I have it on good authority that from time to time people may appreciate that kind of gesture. Some people, anyway. Others have clearly already been pushed well past the ability to give any additional fucks.
In my 13+ years of service I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been reorganized. Half a dozen is the “for sure” number and if I were guessing there are probably two or three more occasions that I’ve mentally blocked out. Technically, reorganizations don’t have to be a bad thing. Theoretically they should be employed to achieve some long term goal like improving the efficiency of operations or to refocus an office on areas that historically are part of their core mission set. Good ideas, those. Unfortunately, what a reorg usually means, though, is that someone, somewhere has no other idea what to do so changing the lines on the wire diagram is the logical place to start. If things aren’t broken already, you can always count on a reorg to bend them till they are cracked and bleeding… It’s got to be the oldest make work project in government.
So it seems we’ll be at the old games again. New desk, new boss, new mission, new projects, but the same old faces and ever aging technology. But then the pay’s the same and it’s the same eight hour day that it’s always been. In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter if it matters… as long as the checks don’t bounce on every alternate Thursday.
I’ve wandered through Facebook pages, websites, news articles, and even random campaign literature praising the qualification of nearly all of the fourteen or so Republican candidates for US Senate in Maryland. It struck me, perhaps too late to be much of a time saver, that what I was doing was really the working definition of madness since Maryland hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1980. For all practical purposes I could cast a write-in vote for myself and have just as much influence on the eventual winner of the electoral process in November. In this state, a Democratic win is just a foregone conclusion.
Of course this reliable bright blue state of ours currently has a surprisingly popular Republican governor who has somehow maintained his bipartisan appeal according to most polls. A Republican senator from the great State of Maryland would be a coup – an improbable, pipe dream of a coup. Still stranger things have happened on election days so I’ll do my best to go out tomorrow and pick us a winner.
Those who are in charge of deciding such things have proclaimed the 1950s and 60s the Golden Age of Television. I’ll gamely admit that in a 3-channel world ruled by the censor’s iron fists, those old timers managed to put together some truly amazing stuff. If you’re expecting story telling without a lot of special effects some of those shows still hold up. I’m happy to burn half an hour watching Andy Taylor patrol Mayberry or Marshal Dillon bring justice to the streets of Dodge City.
Since that golden age, though, we’ve seen the rise of hundreds of cable channels and shows like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, The Wire, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones. They’re reset the bar for the kind of entertainment that people expect on their small screen. Of course we’ve also seen Jerry Springer and Teen Mom II, but I suppose not every bit of writing deserves an Emmy. Still, with everything in the balance, I’d be hard pressed to think those old timers could do anything better.
1. Hurry up (and wait). Hurry up and wait is an idiom that I personally suspect is at least as old as the first band of hunter gatherers who went to war to protect their wildlife and berries from a neighboring tribe. If there’s anything I’ve found consistent over the last decade and a half it’s that the preponderance of things that need doing arrive on my desk with some designation as “hot rocks” or “mission critical” or “for immediate action.” Setting aside the fact that almost none of these issues have ever dealt with actual life or death situation, it becomes a simple matter of people simply expecting things should be done in the double quick. It’s been my experience that you can do analysis well or you can do it quickly. You can even find a middle ground of acceptability between the two, but you cannot under any normal circumstance have both simultaneously. In reality no matter how “hot” the issue, you’re going to find yourself waiting for further guidance, waiting for questions to be answered by others, or waiting for your own chain of command to get around to feeling any actual sense of urgency. Until those things happen, it’s fine to hurry up, but you’d better be sure to have some entertaining apps loaded so the wait is tolerable.
2. Social history. The great man theory of history was out of fashion for at least a century before I picked up my formal study of the craft. Contemporary popular historians busy themselves crafting social history narratives that feel more like professional pandering to racial, gender, or whatever current cause célèbre group has captured the spotlight temporarily and then judging the deeds of long dead actors against whatever utopian dream they’ve concocted. Give me great men and heroic actions any day over that kind of tripe. Call me old fashioned, but I like my historical deeds to be set within the context of their times, rather than measured by whatever half assed yard stick someone just developed so everyone can feel included and not get their feelings hurt. Context is king, which is why judging historical figures as if they just suddenly walked out of the local galleria with a chi tea and $500 sunglasses makes absolutely no sense to me at all.
3. Landscaping. In my pursuit of domestic tranquility I’ve lain my head in all manner of places. From an efficiency apartment, to a condo, through a succession of apartments, to a new-built house, to a rental house, and finally, now, to what I consider a more permanent Fortress Jeff. What most of those places have in common is that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time concerned with landscaping. The condo and apartments obviously took care of themselves. The rental house could be serviced by a regular cut and trim of the yard. The landscaping around the Memphis house was so new that it mostly took care of itself. Now at Fortress Jeff, I’ve inherited a mature landscape in place when I arrived – and one that hadn’t received much attention in at least several growing seasons. In the last year I’ve taken down four full grown trees, sliced out half a dozen shrubs and plants that didn’t fit my “artistic vision,” raised parts of the back yard by almost two feet and set new grass to grow on it. This spring I launched into what I hope will be a mid-term solution for controlling run-off in the front yard and improving drainage. I’ve added the first cubic yard of mulch and have two or three more to go. A former flower bed next to the driveway needs prepped and sodded and then it’s time to tackle the challenge of a bare dirt bank where it seems nothing can take root. All of that’s on the list before I turn my eyes again to the back yard – where the list of want-to-dos is at least as long. Fortunately, I like tinkering with these kinds of projects. The hell of it is, they all take time and cost money and need to be laid in along with all the other tasks and chores that keep the homestead running… so now that spring has arrived, please forgive whatever messes pile up indoors. I’ll be getting back to them when the weather again drives me under cover.
I cast my first vote for president in the 1996 contest between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. I’ve cast votes in every presidential primary and general election since then. Next week, for the first time in twenty years, I’ll actually vote for a candidate running in a race the outcome of which isn’t a foregone conclusion. By the time the primaries roll around in Maryland the nominee is usually running away with it. In the general election, mother Maryland is so reliably blue that all I’m doing at the polls is decreasing the Democratic nominee’s margin of victory by one vote.
Even knowing that the results in my home state are almost never contested, I’ve felt that it’s important to take those few minutes and participate in the process. It’s that much more important this year, because the results really are still in question and so many of the pieces on the board are still in play.
I won’t bore you with the numbing detail of local races, but I’ll say with firm conviction that I still support Governor John Kasich as the best Republican in the race and the candidate from either side of the aisle best suited be the next President of the United States. Next Tuesday he’ll have my vote.