Before I slip away into a world of making dinner, mixing drinks, and settling in for a quiet night with the various creatures here at Fortress Jeff, I wanted to take a few minutes and wish everyone a safe and happy new year. 2016 has been a real mother and I don’t know anyone who’s going to be sad seeing it disappear into the rear view. I’m envious of all those posting online in the expectation that 2017 will be better. The realist in me… well, the realist opinion isn’t one that really needs shared on New Year’s Eve. There’s a whole new year coming for that.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you too all those who supported me over the last year – your comments, emails, and occasional raised eyebrows mean more to me than you’ll know… and more than I’ll ever be able to adequately express. This little site, whether you think of it as a passion project or a vanity exercise, has let me express myself in ways that I would never, ever be able to do otherwise. The fact that so many of you come back day in and day out means everything to me.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.
It occurs to me that it’s Thursday. That means another edition of WAJTW. The issue is I’ve been off for almost a week now and my level of annoyance is way, way below average. In fact it’s barely even registering at the moment. Even shopping for groceries this morning didn’t leave me wishing slow painful death on my fellow shoppers.
While that’s probably a good thing for my overall state of mental health, it doesn’t make for good reading. Since by this time next week I’ll be right back in the normal shit, I’m confident this slump of thinking happy thoughts and not trying to strangle people with my mind are temporary conditions. Until that inevitable shift, I suppose I should just stay in the cut and enjoy it.
Since my order on launch day didn’t entitle me to a “first day of availability” delivery of the iPhone 7 Plus, I exercised one of my lesser developed qualities and sat patiently until it was available for walk in sales. If I can’t get my hands on it right out of the gate, having it delivered to the house weeks later and then getting hit with the additional 6% State of Maryland premium was mostly a case on injury and insult. I didn’t anticipate that was going to take three months, but at long last my patience has been rewarded with a shiny new toy from the wizards in Cupertino (picked up tax free thanks to the fine people of Delaware).
I don’t have any assessment of it yet and in any case anything I find will have already been covered to death by the tech world. Suffice to say that it is small and thiner and from an initial test the camera is probably better than any stand alone camera I ever owned. I’m looking forward to taking this little number out for a test drive… just as soon as all the apps finish downloading.
From the head cook and bottle washer here at jeffreytharp.com to all of you, best wishes for a Happy Christmas.
We’ll return you to the snark, misanthropy, and general annoyance at the world you’ve come to expect on these pages momentarily.
Usually Christmas Eve finds me threatening to take a week’s hiatus from putting up any new posts. Experience tells me that there’s no way I’ll physically be able to restrain myself from bitching and complaining that long. Observing people during this week of festivities invariably means no shortage of dumb decisions or ridiculous people just begging to be immortalized on the internet.
Honestly, I don’t remember Christmas Eve ever being a major event. Maybe there were traditions as a kid, but since leaving home it’s mostly the day for getting from Point A to Point B and rushing through all points in between to do last minute things before the world (except Sheetz) shuts down for 24 hours. This year has proven to be no change from the expected.
With early evening coming on and mid-winter darkness setting in, social media slows to a snail’s pace, and even international news seems to take a bit of a pause. None of that is a bad thing. The world needs the occasional moment to take a knee and maybe get a little reflective. As for me, it’s a sure sign it’s time to stick my nose in a book. That’s exactly my kind of festive celebration.
1. What dreams may come. I don’t know what I spent the night dreaming about. I very rarely remember dreams. What I can tell you is whatever it was it left me well and truly annoyed. I can only surmise from the result that it somehow involved people being stupid. That hardly seems insightful but I can’t think of anything else that leaves me with such a general feeling of annoyance and disappointment in the universe.
2. Christmas. Go ahead and call me Grinch, Scrooge, Krampus, whatever, but it’s three days before Christmas and I’m just not feeling it this year. Maybe it’s because I’ve usually already started my Christmas vacation by this point in the week. Maybe it’s because it was 50 degrees today. Maybe it’s because I want to bludgeon the next person who whistles past my cubicle wearing an ugly Christmas sweater to death with my keyboard. I might not be ready for Christmas this year, but I’m damn good and ready for this eight-day weekend… and that’s not nothing.
3. Backup. I’ve been saying for months now that I needed someone to at least get familiar with some of the things I’m working on. I don’t need someone to do the work, just someone who can speak intelligently about it if I happen to get hit by a bus, win the lottery, or, you know, take a few days off. Now that the latter scenario is upon is, let’s not act like anyone is surprised it’s happening. The decision that every project was going to have a single point of failure was made at echelons far above mine and despite all evidence to the contrary, decisions have consequences. The consequence here is that while I’m gone, no one is going to be around to answer whatever questions happen to come up. Yes, it means there will be an unmitigated shitshow when I get back. I may not be able to avoid those problems, but I can sure as hell defer them and for the time being that’s good enough.
I have no idea if it’s actually going to be the darkest evening of the year or not, but it’s going to be the longest even if only by a few seconds. I post about the winter solstice just about every year knowing full well that the coldest days of winter are still a few weeks ahead. Maybe it’s important to me because I’ve always been more a worshiper of the light rather than the heat. Getting back to a schedule that feels a little less mole-like is just incredibly appealing after weeks of rising in the darkness, working in a cave, and returning home again in darkness.
The solstice at least marks where that trend starts slowly to right itself. You can say what you want about Christmas and the reason for the season, but maybe there’s just enough pagan left in me that solstice feels like something that should be a celebration. Solstice is the hope of spring and growth and warm afternoons tending the yard. The irony of the fact that I’m currently also working on a future blog post about hope and why it’s bad isn’t lost on me in the least as I type these words. Despite what I’ll soon tell you about the problematic nature of hope, for the moment, hope is going to have to be enough.
I’ve spent a not insignificant part of my career railing against people who have meetings just to have meetings or the ones that could have been just an email. I run a standing Tuesday morning meeting. It’s been on the books for longer than I car to remember. Usually it lasts about 45 minutes, we hit the highlights of what changes took place in the last week, and we go our separate ways. I try very hard to never miss a chance to cancel it when there are so few changes from week to week that they can be easily pushed out as an email.
I fucked up today. I had a chance to cancel a meeting and I didn’t. Honestly, I basically forgot about it even being on the schedule until 30 minutes before it was supposed to start… and that’s only because Outlook stood up and told me I needed to dial in to the conference number. Because I spend my life online calling other people out, it’s only fair that I make this full and complete confessions of my sins.
Today I was the douchebag that held a meeting that could have easily been an email. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and have brought grave dishonor upon myself and my ancestors.
Every year at this time, the powers that be are somehow perplexed and befuddled that they suddenly find themselves with far fewer people around than they expected to have at their desks. As a mostly dispassionate observer the fact that the office becomes a veritable ghost town the last two weeks of December no longer comes as a surprise to me. It’s as predictable as the rising and setting sun.
While other people are home hanging stockings with care, bosses are skittering across their newly emptied halls calling for updated briefing slides, impromptu meetings, and searching in vane for an action officer who’s three states away sucking down nog. That leaves we who remain mostly to roll our eyes. I saw a lot of that response today. As the days pass and the week draws towards its end the faces will get fewer, but the eye rolls definitely become more exaggerated. By Friday, they’ll be almost comic.
That’s the nature of the end of the year working for this beloved institution of ours. It’s adorable that people think projects are still getting undivided attention and people are spending their time building the perfect slide. I won’t blatantly say the watchword of the week is “disinterested,” but anyone who’s paying attention knows the score.
1. Write down your grocery list
2. Brainstorm last minute Christmas gift ideas
3. Make notes about actual productive things you could be doing at your desk
4. Practice your advanced eye rolling skills
5. Contemplate your bad career/life decisions
6. Look thoughtfully into the distance and nod at appropriate intervals
7. Spend 15 seconds of this 90-minute hell actually talking about the one issue relevant to your job
8. Resist the temptation to live tweet the stupid people say in meetings
9. Play buzzword/gov-speak bingo
10. Remember to update the “Days Until Retirement” sign hanging in your cube