It was a short week capped off with extra time at home. What annoys Jeff this week? Very little.
I’ve had it with this week. It hasn’t been particularly busy. It hasn’t been particularly trying. It hasn’t been anything other than completely ordinary, but I really have had it. Neither my head nor my heart are in it. If I can feel it that strongly, it’s got to be showing.
Fortunately, I’ve been hoarding vacation days since the beginning of the year and pulled the trigger to double the size and duration of this weekend – Effectively pulling Friday right up into the middle of the week. It’s remarkable how much my mood improved by firing off just that little bit of paperwork.
Some people would drown that extra-long weekend in Netflix or find their way to the beach or the mountains. Me? Well, I’ll be mulching if anyone needs me. There’s something deeply satisfying about working in the dirt. Maybe it’s hard-wired from pre-history when our hunting and gathering ancestors gave way to their agrarian progeny. Then again maybe it’s just nice to see a finished and physical product coming together at the end of a day’s work. That’s not something you find much of in a world ruled by spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides.
Whatever the reason, I know I’ll feel better once my hands get in the dirt – and maybe after a few days of going to bed physically tired instead of just mentally worn out.
Donald Trump has been president now for (almost) 100 days. Civilization has not collapsed. We’ve not all been forced to start speaking Russian. There are still 50 states. And as far as I can tell, not one left-leaning celebrity has actually carried through with their promise to leave the country.
From my vantage point, the country isn’t all that much different than it was at 11:59AM on January 20th. The Democrats in Congress are fighting a long war of attrition hoping to gain ground during the mid-terms. The Republicans in Congress are at war with themselves. No major legislation has been passed and we’re racing towards another impending government shutdown at the end of the month. Abortion is still legal. Everyone can still get married. And states still don’t have to recognize the 2nd Amendment.
The 25% of the population who think’s President Trump can do no wrong are the same 25% of the population who thought President Obama could do no right. The 25% of Americans who think President Trump can do no right are the same ones who though President Obama could do no wrong. The 50% of us in the middle are still utterly perplexed by the extremists on both flanks.
Our politics is brutal and ugly, but the market keeps ticking along flirting with Dow 21,000. Home sales are brisk. Unemployment continues to trend down through the statistical area known as “full employment.”
FDR, with the help of a willing Congress, set a ridiculous standard for the first hundred days of a new presidency. In contrast, Lincoln saw seven states leave the Union before he was even sworn in to start a hundred day countdown. All I’m saying is that the first 2400 hours of an administration may not be the single best tool by which we measure where we are and how it’s going.
My suspicion is there have been far better and far worse times to be both alive and American simultaneously… but that it’s neither as bad nor as good as some of us think it is in the moment.
It turns out YouTube is for more than cat videos and an occasional source for demonstrations on how to make some minor household repair. I’d been so busy with Netflix and Hulu that I really underestimated it as a platform for actual quality content… so yes, I’m arriving late at this particular party – and I’m coming to it by way of my usual circuitous route.
After seeing some stupendous English country manor featured in a period drama I traipsed down the rabbit hole looking for a bit of information about the house itself… which led through Wikipedia to Google and ultimately through a whole series of clicks to YouTube and a fairly recent BBC documentary called The Country House Revealed. This, of course, led to a whole series of other programs built around the 18th century homes of the English aristocracy, which led to programs about renovating 400 year old houses, which led to various “reality” house hunting shows based in the UK.
The internet is a strange and wonderful place… as long as you manage to avoid the scammers, cheats, and schemes. Although I’m never quite sure if that’s better or worse than losing hours of your day with experts trying to decide if a particular pile can be traced back to Sir Christopher Wren or not. In any case, I’ll never doubt the utility of YouTube again.
1. The value of time, or lack thereof. I’m a largely self-directed kind of guy. Give me a task and the day you want it completed and it’ll be on your desk, usually with a few minutes to spare. I prefer operating free from micromanagement. It’s usually when I do my best work. Sometimes, though, additional guidance is necessary, or perhaps one of my five bosses has asked for an update. I’m good with that. They need to know (or at least should know) what’s going on… but what chaps my ass to no end is when they schedule the meeting and then don’t bother showing up for their own update. Things happen, I know, but when you’ve done it six consecutive times, it shows a monumental disregard for anyone who isn’t you. Sooner or later a guy just might start taking that kind of insult a little personally. Thank God we don’t worry about little things like morale.
2. Buying essentials. Shopping for new tires is sucks. It’s a necessary evil, of course, but that doesn’t in any way make it as fun and exciting as say looking for a new puppy. I’ve got a laundry list of widgets I want to add to the Jeep for summer driving enjoyment, but instead of ordering a fancy new head unit or LED headlights I’m spending the week price checking local tire shops and looking at product reviews so I can buy four tires and a new battery for Big Red. Making responsible adult decisions is lame.
3. Any internet site that offers “127 things you didn’t know about Some Random Topic.” Of course I know 99.98% of these sites are pure click bait, but every once in a while one looks interesting enough to make the slog through the land of Click For Next Page feel worth it. The real problem is I read a lot of books, watch a lot of documentaries, pay attention to details, and have a genuinely curious mind. So if you could divide your click bait into separate “general knowledge” and “advanced” categories I’d find it extremely helpful. It would save me a great deal of time muttering “who the hell doesn’t know that?”
As anyone who reads regularly will know by now, I’m employed by a large, mostly faceless bureaucracy. It’s an organization that seemingly runs on creating vast new (mandatory) training programs that suck up massive amounts of time without delivering much return on the investment. In my experience, it’s all just another box to be checked to satisfy some arcane requirement of law, regulation, or policy.
Coming soon to an auditorium near us is a new one hour feature focused on Mandatory Training on Big Faceless Bureaucracy Policy on Service of Transgender Persons. Look, I get that it’s the current trendy topic for those fighting the culture wars. There are whole offices in the bureaucracy dedicated to taking such things very, very seriously.
I think I’ve been clear and consistent in my message that I don’t personally care who you sleep with, what you wear, or even what restroom you use (as long as you conform to the gentleman’s agreement that urinals are a no talking zone). I don’t want to have a long, meaningful discussion about how you “self-identify.” Frankly I’m just not interested enough to spend any more than a passing moment thinking about it at all.
I was born in the late 1970s and got my raising in a small Appalachian coal town. I have no doubt that most of my foundational beliefs were built right there along the banks of George’s Creek. Saying that was a simpler time and place doesn’t do it justice. Despite those core beliefs, the ones I live by personally, I’ve never found myself one to believe that my way has to be the only way.
With that said, I’m still a little sad that I’m going to be a part of the last generation who remembers when two genders defined by your junk was enough for just about everyone. If things were still so simple, it would get me out of about 20 hours of mandatory training over the last half of my career… because at this point, minimizing the amount of time I have to spend checking boxes is kind of a career priority of mine.
Tuesday is the new Monday. There. I Said it.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago I use to dread the arrival of Sunday night and the end of the weekend. Now that Mondays are usually spent working from the comfort of home, Tuesday is the day that causes the most angst and consternation. Now that I’ve settled into the new Monday routine I’m even more starkly aware of just how cripplingly unproductive a day at the average office is.
The trouble with being an information worker is that so much of what you touch requires some amount of reflection and analysis. Concentration is pretty easy to come by when you’ve got views of the woods and the loudest sound is mid-morning trash collection across the street. It’s a much harder commodity to come by when you’re stacked shoulder to shoulder with 30 other people who are all having their own conversations, or are warming up their lunch, ignoring phones ringing, pushing reams of paper through the shredder, and making their way to and from meetings and appointments, or who are just away from their desks wandering around to pass the time.
Now I can be a pretty focused guy. When the need arises I can summon monumental amounts of concentration on one point to the exclusion of all else… but I’m starting to suspect that the need to do that all day, every day is a major contributing factor to why I drive away from the office four days a week feeling like someone has run my brain through a blender. Somehow I doubt seriously that’s part of the recipe for wise and effective analysis over the long term.
I know for a fact that isn’t not even a short term recipe for a happy and productive Jeff.
The homestead is something of an animal kingdom. The squirrels and birds get plied with all the nuts and seeds they can eat, the resident deer get the occasional handful of corn, and all manner of morsels from the kitchen feed whatever creatures will eat them. The critters inside pretty much have the run of the place. As often as not it feels like the whole household is designed around them. Given the amount of time I spent shifting furniture yesterday that’s not quite an understatement.
Until Hershel the cat came along, George the tortoise lived happily in his open topped enclosure in the office. With the addition of a cat, who wasn’t so much interested in the tortoise as he was in jumping into and out of the enclosure and spinning ground coconut onto every flat surface in the room with every leap in and out. Between the never-ending cycle of vacuuming up coconut shell and the threat of tipping over various heat lamps, the two had to be separated.
That was easy enough in the winter – close up the doors to the sunroom/office and go on about the day. With spring setting in and inability to satisfactorily control the ambient air temperature coming to a head, George had to move… Which is why I spent most of the day yesterday getting him installed in his own bedroom. Yes, I understand how perfectly ridiculous that sounds, but I suspect we’ll all be happier with this arrangement. Well, the cat may not be as pleased since I seem to have taken away one of his favorite toys. I supposed he’ll just have to satisfy himself with other less messy options for the foreseeable future.
I’m well satisfied with out new arrangement, but perhaps more satisfied that the furniture is all back in place and the hand carts and other implements of moving are back in the garage. Around here the biggest enemies to a happy life are chaos and disorder. Spending the better part of a day bringing those to heel feels like time awfully well spent.
1. False enthusiasm. When someone departs the workplace, it’s traditional to say a few kind words on the occasion. That’s easier in some cases than others. The sticking point is, I have a hard time saying things I don’t mean, so if you were a royal pain in the ass in the time we worked together, don’t expect that I’m going to have glowing commendations just because it’s time for you to move on. That level of false enthusiasm isn’t my style. Sometimes the only positive thing you can say about someone is “he’s gone.”
2. Pollen. I know trees have to fornicate. It’s part of the circle of life or whatever. I just wish science could come up with a way for them to do it without the whole ugly mess getting in my eyes, clogging my nose, and wrecking my throat two or three months out of each year.
3. Time. My relationship with time could generously be described as “well ordered.” Others might call it slightly bent towards fanaticism. Still, with clocks and lists, I aggressively manage my waking hours in an effort to cram as much into them as possible. That’s why it caught me off guard when someone asked me if I had scheduled any time off for the holiday. I was perplexed, right up to the point where they helpfully pointed out that Sunday is Easter. It had totally slipped my mind… but as a holiday that doesn’t isn’t of the extra-day-off variety, I think I can be forgiven. The more concerning bit is that it’s Easter already and the year has given no indications of slowing down at all.
For the last thirty minutes of my workday I couldn’t help but overhear a colleague making multiple phone calls, desperately trying to “find pie.” I don’t have any idea whether he was looking for pie, pi, or PIE, but the man was committed. I’m writing this just as a reminder that in almost everything context is king… because I can’t for the life of me shake the mental image of this guy desperately seeking “the whole pie” that someone had maliciously taken from him.
Come to think of it, I could really go for a nice coconut custard or lemon meringue. I’m sure it’s not what anyone was talking about but like I said, context matters.