1. Working lunch. Fuck that noise. I’m either working or I’m at lunch. There is no middle ground where that issue is concerned. Lunch implies a pause from labor in order to nourish and sustain the body. Flipping slides as part of a conclave of the great and the good while popping Tic Tacs and swilling warm Coke and cold coffee just to keep myself awake does not in any way constitute “having lunch.” Don’t worry, though, I’ll go ahead and adjust my departure time accordingly.
2. Undeserved ego. I don’t have any complaint about people whose ego is deserved. There are plenty who walk among us who are perfectly justified in displaying their swollen head at every opportunity. It’s something else entirely if you’re thinking so highly of yourself for no discernible reason. Because people are generally polite by nature, most of them won’t tell you that your new clothes aren’t clothes at all – Their desire for self-preservation will see to that. But rest assured, every single one of us will be thinking it every time your pie hole swings open.
3. Meetings (again, because frankly they’re probably the single most annoying element of my life). As a rule of thumb I’ve always thought a meeting should be a quick affair. It’s a chance to pull a lot of people into a room and convey information that can’t be shared any other way. That’s fine in principle. The problem arises when people want to use a meeting as a forum to “do the work.” In my experience that’s the very last thing that happens in a meeting. There may be loads of discussion but you should never confuse that with having accomplished a great deal of work. It’s the kind of thing I think about during the first in a series of three and a half hour long meetings – wherein I have seemingly limitless time to ponder bad career choices and the 210 minutes of my life I will never ever been able to get back.
It has come to my attention that there may be a feeling that I have a tendency towards being too critical of people and things. I’m told “mistakes happen.” They surely do… except that what most people call mistakes I’ve found to usually be caused by failing to plan, not training hard enough, lack of attention to detail, or just generally being sloppy in the way you execute your day to day responsibilities. Negative consequences resulting from any of those things are not so much mistakes or random accidents as they are direct results of some general failure to adequately prepare or perform.
I don’t say that to cast dispersions upon anyone. Legitimate mistakes do happen from time to time. Random chance sees to that. I’m perfectly willing to admit it. If it seems, occasionally, that I’m overly sensitive to such things or that I’m living with unrealistic expectations of others, I can only ask you to rest assured that I also live with those standards for myself. I know instinctively that I will never have a worse critic than the one that lives inside my own head. I feel every honest mistake intensely – and every consequence of personal failing or inadequate preparation like a body blow.
In our daily endeavors it’s a fool’s errand to demand perfection. There’s simply no way to control for all possible inputs. Even knowing that, though, I’ll make no apologies for expecting good order and discipline to prevail. All I can promise you, and I swear this before the gods, is that I will never hold another to a standard higher than to that which I hold myself.
For those of you who work in an environment where having a meeting is not the coin of the realm, all I can say is I’m feeling more than a little bit jealous. I’m jealous because my Friday last week went basically like this:
The Good News: The staff meeting today is cancelled.
The Bad News: You’re going to need to sit through this other 3.5 hour meeting that in no way relates to anything you do on a regular basis.
Wow. Thanks for that opportunity.
Let’s just say that over the course of those three and a half hours we were supposed to cover something on the order of 75 slides. By the two hour mark we had gone over 10 of them. At three hours, that total had climbed to 19. By the time a halt was called at three hours and thirty minutes of endurance, we had managed to get through a total of 23 slides – or 6.57 slides per hour. If you’ve never wanted to gouge your own eyes out just to have something to do, this is the experience that will push you happily towards that extreme.
The cost of just the people sitting in that room for half a day runs north of $5,500 just in baseline salary. Add in incidentals like benefits, electricity, telephone costs, video connection fees, and other extraneous expenses, and that cost easily doubles. My point is not only are meetings an inefficient way to spend our waking hours, but they’re also ruinously expensive.
The only thing saving me from a repeat of this fate tomorrow is a trip to the blessed dentist. If you think for a moment that having a temporary crown ripped off and the permanent version glued into place is in any way the greater of these two evils, well then friend, you just have been in the right meetings.
Sigh. Yet another item on the growing list of things that would be dispensed with if I were elevated to king for the day.
Last year on this day I wrote that I was amazed a year had gone by and that “feels like there’s been some part of the place under construction for most of that time; not to mention an ever-lengthening list of projects yet to come.” As much as I would love to say that the second anniversary of buying Fortress Jeff finds that to be less true, of course it isn’t. The place is still a near constant construction zone (though fortunately this year’s efforts have been less dramatic) and the project list has only continued to grow.
It’s taken a while to get to a place where it feels like I’m not walking into someone else’s house that just happens to have all of my stuff in it… but I’m pretty much there now. Except, of course, for the occasional discoveries of little things that leave me wondering the logic behind why things were done a certain way when they built the place (like mystery light switches) and the perplexing rational behind not putting this place on a full basement.
All things considered I think I can be happy hiding from people here for a good long while.
Between the light diffusing from Wilmington and Baltimore I’m a little too boxed in by sprawl to have ideal nighttime sky viewing conditions. Sometimes, though, when it’s cold and the air is clear you get a glimpse of what it must have been like standing on these shores a few hundred years ago – when these lands were the outpost of civilization.
On nights like tonight, if you’re lucky and your timing is just right, you take the dogs out, happen to look up at just the right angle to marvel again at the constellations you learned as a kid, and are rewarded with a shooting star passing across Orion for your troubles. It’s awfully hard not to appreciate the moments like that.
1. Junkies. A 17 year old addict stabbed a woman in the neck at one the county’s fine retail establishments Tuesday morning. By Tuesday night local social media pages were filled with calls to pity the poor addict. Far fewer mentioned his victim. Addiction may well be a disease but at some point little Johnny Eightball made a decision to give it a try. All the “he was raised rights” and “he is usually such a nice young mans” in the world doesn’t change the fact that his original sin was a decision not an immaculate victimhood. If Jeff were king for a day the prescription for what ails twatwaffles like young Johnny Eightball wouldn’t be zen meditation, three hots and a cot, or sympathetic understanding that’s for goddamned sure.
2. LED bulbs that “pause” before lighting up. As the 64 watt can lights in the kitchen burn out, I’m replacing them with comparable LED bulbs. Other than the living room reading lamp, these are probably the bulbs in the house that get the most daily use because I like excessive light when fiddling around in the kitchen. Mostly it’s been a happy transition to LED… except for this last one. Where all the other bulbs exactly replicate the feel of “old fashioned” filament bulbs, this latest one has a noticeable, and increasingly annoying “waiting period” before it comes on after I flip the switch. Yes, I know, it’s a minor first world problem, but seeing that I live in the first world, that’s to be expected… so now I’ll go off to Lowe’s and buy another $12 bulb in the hopes that I just got a bum the last time around.
3. Deceiving looks. There’s a tree still lying across the sidewalk and partially into the road just a few dozen yards from my driveway. To anyone driving past it would look for all intents and purposes as if I were the irresponsible homeowner who was leaving it lay there. Of course being the anal retentive jerk I am, I had a full survey done when I bought Fortress Jeff and know exactly where my responsibilities begin and end. The tree in question is without a doubt something that is squarely within the bailiwick of my neighbor to the northeast. Looks are deceiving… and just now the deception is making me look like an asshat.
Nothing good ever starts with the boss coming by asking “How busy are you this week?”
The answer, the answer I should have given, true or not, is “I’m busier than a one-armed paper hanger, sir… Doing great things for God and country.”
Instead the answer was “Meh, what do you need?” I made the cardinal mistake of showing even the least semblance of interest. I made a mistake and the consequences were swift and certain.
One little slip up, friends, is precisely how you get yourself drug into the middle of a three and a half hour meeting on Friday that up until just a few minutes before was none of your damned business.
I’ve lead the internet in warning future bureaucrats about the dangers inherent in volunteerism. In my career, I’ve never been rewarded for putting up my hand and asking for more work. Although it leads the list by a fairly wide margin, volunteerism isn’t the only form of creeping workload adjustment that can ruin your day.
While I didn’t quite volunteer today, I did present myself as a convenient target of opportunity. Just being at the wrong place at the wrong time can result in two reports and a half a day worth of briefings ending up slipping from someone else’s pile to yours before you even realize what you’ve done.
“Surprise!” Says the universe. “That nice easy week you were planning… the one with the low pressure slide into the weekend? Yeah, you can go ahead and forget all about that.” The universe is a real son of a bitch like that.
That’s what I get for being caught at my desk. I know better. And now I’m going to pay the price for not turning that knowledge into action.
It’s not exactly a secret that I’m not a fan of large groups of people – or of people in general. My misanthropic tendencies run pure as a mountain stream and remain one of my most consistent personality traits over time.
Despite my misgivings about people and groups, I’m a reasonable enough adult human being to know that both are sometimes unavoidable. While social engagements aren’t something I seek out, they are a fact of life from time to time. In those circumstances, I’m perfectly capable of behaving myself in polite company, of making small talk, and generally being a pleasant enough human being.
So you see, what I mean when I say “I don’t like people,” is I don’t go out of my way to find them, but I’m perfectly aware that they are a simple fact of modern life with which I have learned to contend. I learned a long time ago that most people need far more social interaction than I do in order to feel some sense of community or fulfillment. I’ve made peace with it. Mostly.
I’m never going to be the guy who wants to be the center of attention at a party of social event. Like Mister Ed, I’ll likely never speak unless I have something to say. Others may be more tempted to flap their gums to fill in awkward silences. That should in no way be mistaken to mean that I’m going to stand in a corner looking surly for the duration of the event. Just because I don’t usually want to doesn’t mean I can’t play nicely with others when the need arises.
Sometimes, you see, circumstances demand that we do that which we would not otherwise do, not because it’s how we’d rather spend our time, but because it’s something important to the person asking us to tag along. That said, I find myself growing less and less accommodating by the minute. If I’m going to be condemned in either case, I’d rather be condemned for what I am rather than what I am not.
I’m still settling in to the whole idea of working from home. Not schlepping through the pre-dawn darkness to sit in a badly lit room with thirty other people doesn’t really suck. I like the view and my coworkers are appreciative of ear rubs and the occasional milkbone. Honestly it’s a whole lot of up side and not much down, at least so far.
It’s a learning process for sure and what I’ve learned this week is:
1. Dogs make the best coworkers. They’re content to find a convenient spot on the floor, preferably in the sun, and stay put until you want them for something.
2. Cats are attention-seeking little hoodlums who want to interrupt you 47 times a day. So basically, working while a cat is in residence is a lot like having actual human coworkers.
3. Happy hour begins promptly at 4:00. Getting that tasty beverage to start the evening an hour earlier is an awfully effective way to put a fork in Monday.
4. There’s something to be said for a lunch that doesn’t come out of a cooler bag / paper bag or from the hands of a sandwich artist.
5. The availability and freshness of the coffee / tea selection is way, way better. It’s hard to underestimate just how much better life is when you can fresh brew all day long.
I wish I could offer up something a little more insightful, but work is work no matter where it’s getting done. The best we can seem to hope for is improving the venue where we spend our eight hours.
1. Appointments. Look, I’m the customer. I’m calling your business for an appointment. When I tell you that I don’t want an appointment after 4:00 the next three times you try to give me should not be after 4:00. When I tell you Thursdays are not a good day for me, how about not offering up times on Thursday. I’m trying to give you a not insignificant amount of money to provide a service. The least you could reasonably be expected to do is make the transaction slightly less onerous.
2. Being a square peg fitted into a round hole. There are many subject matter experts in my building. I’m not one of them. My skills don’t lie in my technical expertise. They do, however, lie in making sure the people with the right skill sets all show up to the same place in the often vain hope that something might get accomplished by the time it’s over. I’m a facilitator. When Person A has a problem, I make the appropriate introduction to Person B and then stand back and let the magic happen. I know just enough about the details for my opinions on them to be wrong at least as often as they’re right. That’s why I don’t sell myself as the resident expert… so when you try to cram me into that role because I happen to be available in the moment, don’t be surprised when things don’t go exactly how you planned.
3. Acceptance. I’m an Anglophile from way back. If it weren’t for their ridiculously high taxation and periodic dalliances with socialism, I’d strongly consider England a strong contender as a place I wouldn’t mind ending up in retirement. I follow a number of official UK government social media feeds which have been filled in the recent days with pictures of Her Majesty The Queen and assorted members of the Royal Family distributing knighthoods. I’m starting to come to the grim acceptance that the clock may be running out on my chance to ever make it onto the Honours List.