What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Getting moist. It finally feels like I have a good handle on the major issues that led to the basement here at Fortress Jeff regularly taking on water both over and through the side. After a good day and night of hard rain those problems may not be completely resolved, but have diminished to the point where I’m not obsessing and losing sleep over them. Now that I’ve got the water directed away from the path of least resistance, of course, it has wasted no time seeking out the path of next least resistance. In this case that path seems to be the joint between the poured concrete floor and the cinder block basement walls. In a few spots it’s not exactly a puddle, but it’s definitely darkening due to the presence of water. It’s getting moist. As much as some of you hate that word, I hate the actual issue that much and more. I get the distinct impression that the basement is going to be the ongoing bane of my existence for the duration of our stay.

2. Celebrity opinion. Celebrities are entertaining, almost by definition. In some cases they’re even pleasant to look at. However, being eye candy doesn’t qualify one to have an opinion any more informed than the rest of us. That’s why I’m always vaguely perplexed when anyone points to the celebrity-of-the-day and makes life decisions based on their opinion. I look to my celebrities for their entertainment value. That’s their skill set. Some of them are whip smart of course, but that’s not generally my first consideration when deciding to follow them on Twitter.

3. Voicemail. Looking at my phone I currently have 17 voice mail messages that I haven’t listened to. I don’t intend to listen to them. I know why those callers called and I responded with the appropriate information in a timely manner. Why in 2016 do people insist on leaving voicemail? I see your number. I’ll call you back as soon as I’m free, willing, and able to do so… but you could have saved us all a lot of time if you had just sent me a text or email in the first place. Those I get to right away.

Actual work (and why it doesn’t happen)…

There is the occasional rare day when I can sit down and focus on one or two major projects and feel like I’ve mushed the ball forward even if it’s only by a little bit. Today wasn’t that day. The fact is, I don’t remember much of what I worked on today. I try very hard to do a mental dump on my way out the door in an effort to not drag any additional jackassery back across the river with me at the end of the day. Maintaining that massive, immutable, and nearly impenetrable wall between work and “everything else” might just be the most important thing I do on a daily basis. It’s the preserver of my sanity.

I vaguely remember that at one point or another today Outlook tried to trick me into a meeting I didn’t need to go to, and someone wanted me to fix a broken folding table, and there was a very serious discussion about where to store 30 outdoor umbrellas for the winter, and picking 8 people to take a bus ride to DC next week fell squarely on my desk. Those are exactly the kinds of things that end up being the reason actual work ends up being so often late, halfassed, or just completely blown off. You’re just going to have to trust me when I saw it’s almost never intentional.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some of my real work done… but I’m not overly optimistic. Some week’s just go like that. Although past performance is not a guarantee of future results, it’s often a healthy indicator. With this week so far as a guide, the best I’ll likely be able to manage is keeping my head down and trudging on towards the weekend. At least it’s no longer in any way surprising that this is how the “real world” works.

Now and then…

My first Jeep was a 2001 TJ model in firecracker red with a “spice” soft top (that’s tan to normal people). It came standard with plastic zip-down front windows, a few squares of carpet in the foot well, a 5-speed manual transmission, and an in-line 4-cylinder engine turning 150 horsepower. The only “upgrade” on that long ago Jeep was the factory installed air conditioner. She was profoundly underpowered from the day she rolled off the assembly line. The top leaked around the top left corner of the windshield. Everything rattled and it rode like a cinderblock. From old logging roads, to open fields, to mud holes, to snow drifts, to the beaches north of Corolla Light that old Jeep never once failed to go through anything I pointed its nose towards. It would beat the hell out of you for the privilege, but it was hands down more fun to drive than any other vehicle I’ve ever owned.

In what some might consider a misguided effort to recapture my early 20s, I find myself back in a Wrangler – my way of indefinitely extending the life of a pickup truck running towards 110,000 miles on the odometer. That’s the justification I used in my own head anyway. The truth is I’ve wanted another Jeep almost since the day I sold the last one. There’s just something about that wind-burnt, sun burned, ride that gets under your skin if you’re the right kind of personality.

If you were never around one of the old models, you’d be hard pressed to realize that the JK’s are quite a leap ahead from their predecessors. Hard doors and power windows, a top that can be dropped in segments, almost twice the old horsepower, plastic molding covering what use to be bare metal interiors. It’s downright civilized by comparison.

Fortunately it still has the aerodynamics of a brick. On the right road the suspension will still rattle your fillings. The soft top is still noisy as hell and the whole contraption still does some kind of strange pitch and yaw movement when taking corners faster than 20 miles an hour. It’s almost exactly what I want in a vehicle that nominally traces its lineage back to 1941 and the war to save Europe.

The Jeep is a throwback – and I love it for that.

The great debate…

I’ve noticed that one of the major news networks is advertising tonight’s debate with the same style commercials that are usually reserved for the UFC fights or boxing matches. It’s good imagery… and as much as I’d like to sit here tonight and tell you that I’m not going to tune in, I just can’t bring myself to spin that yarn.

It’s going to be a great debate. I don’t, of course, mean that it’s going to rise to the standards set by Lincoln and Douglass, but rather I’m just assuming it’s going to be an epic shitshow worthy of the best (or worst) reality TV we’ve ever seen.

I don’t see how it can avoid being a train wreck. The only three scenarios I can envision are all equally bad. 1) Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump spend the whole night beating on each other; or 2) Mr. Trump spends the whole night perfecting his carnival barker routine while Secretary Clinton watches him implode; 3) Secretary Clinton collapses on stage while Mr. Trump dances around her like Apollo Creed at the beginning of Rocky IV. None of those, given these two candidates, bodes particularly well for the future of American democracy.

Most of the time I can take comfort in the fact that somehow, the Republic endures. These days even that feels like it could be more and more of a stretch.

Starting around 9PM I’ll be live tweeting the debate @jdtharp for as long as I can stomach it.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The hidden meeting. My days are full of meetings. In fact that might be the only thing that’s consistent from day-to-day. With that being said, if you don’t tell me a meeting is happening I can’t even make the effort to show up and offer you whatever drippings of wisdom I can squeeze out of my overtaxed mind. I probably should have been there. I can even pretend to be sorry I missed it, but really any reason to be stuck in one less meeting is just fine by me.

2. That dinner doesn’t cook itself. Now that the days are getting shorter I find myself really wishing to come home to a nice meal instead of arriving to find a bunch of separate ingredients that I then need to turn into a nice meal. Last week there were far more cereal-for-dinner nights than I’m comfortable admitting.

3. Acorns. In and of themselves, I have nothing against the seed that grows the mighty oak. My only objection to them is this time of year the dogs seem to think they are magical treats dispensed from on high. My trees are majestic, but because of them I’m going to spend the next to days following the Maggie and Winston around shooing them away from the buffet.

The secret to the good life…

The good people of Charlotte are far more tolerant and understanding than I have a tendency to be. If you and your friends step out onto the interstate in order to “protest,” I don’t feel bad at all if one of you finds yourself under the bus. I understand people stopping for the assembled crowd in front of them, but the first time a rock slammed into my windshield or I felt my life was otherwise endangered, I don’t believe I’d have any moral compunction about using 4-wheel drive and 381 horsepower to cleave through that crowd like a hot knife. I don’t ever seek violence, but don’t think for a minute that I’m shy about using every weapon I have at hand to preserve my own life. I value it far more than I do that of someone who decides wading out into the middle of I-85 is a good way to make their point.

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record when I say things like this, but then again I’ve never had much a warm fuzzy for organized “protestors.” In my experience the only thing they’re much good for was lunchtime entertainment back in the olden days when I worked in DC. Those Million Whatever marches, though, were mostly harmless for the average tourist or office worker. If your idea of a protest involves endangering life and destroying property, you’ve really ceased to be sympathetic in my estimation.

Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Have a few hours of entertainment. Go to bed. Repeat. There’s no great secret to the good life, but you kind of have to work for it… and no, looting the local Walmart and throwing rocks at commuters does not count as work.

Distractors…

I’ve always had trouble finding my mental focus in loud environments. I don’t know if that’s what makes the hermit life so appealing to me or if it’s the other way around. It doesn’t really matter which caused what. The end result is the same – sitting at my desk with glazed eyes completely unable to cobble together a single coherent thought. It’s just one of the many joys of existing in cubicle hell.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that the day to day isn’t as bad as I feared, but with that said the bad moments are absolutely hellish. At one point this afternoon I was an unwilling third party participant to at least six conversations taking place simultaneously within 20 feet of my desk. Keeping track of the thread of my own thoughts proved to be something between challenging and impossible for the better part of two hours today. For the record, that doesn’t lead to good staff work and leaves me feeling just about as annoyed in this particular workplace as I’ve ever been. That’s no mean feat.

When other people leave the office they’re in a rush to meet for dinner, or go shopping, or engage in some other socially acceptable form of human interaction. When I leave I can’t get away from that sort of thing fast enough. Home is far from silent, of course. There’s the clatter of dogs on tile, television or radio humming quietly in the background, HVAC noises, or appliances running. Somehow those things manage to not be distracting. Half a dozen overlapping conversations, on the other hand, leave me tired and more than a bit frustrated with my own inability to focus through the distractors.

Whatever reason, the subdued sounds of home, a good book, and something pressed from the fruit of the arbor feels like exactly what I need to steady myself.