The Year in Review: 2017 Edition

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 9.55.36 AM.png WordPress use to helpfully provide a year in review feature that would auto-magically spit out a post with all the facts and figures about what posts were popular, where your views were coming from, and all manner of information about what your readers found interesting. Sadly, they discontinued that feature a couple of years ago, so it’s up to me to come up with something to say here at the end of the year.

In plain language, this year was almost exactly average with about 6,600 views and 3,684 visitors. Some years have been better, some worse, and I guess that’s about all we can reasonably expect to say about blogging – or life for that matter.

The most viewed post of the year wasn’t even a post from this year. Instead, you have to reach back all the way to 2014 find the post titled For Official Use Only. Some people would mind that, but me, I’m not picky about where people are looking so long as they’re looking. In case you’re wondering, you had to drop all the way down to the third most viewed post to find one written in 2017. You probably won’t be shocked to find out it’s about people making bad decisions and the rest of us poor sods who have to listen to them talk about it.

In related news, it’s also the first year that “hot lesbian cheerleader” didn’t lead the ranking of search terms that brought people here. I’m not sure if that says more about what people are searching for or the content I’ve been posting this year… so make of that what you will.

I won’t even speculate what 2018 holds for the world. Assuming the new year is about the same as the old, it’ll be about equal parts joy and terror, with a heavy dose of “what the actual fuck” thrown in for good measure. The only thing I’m reasonably sure about is that as long as I have an internet connection and and a few thoughts that I can’t stand keeping to myself, I’ll be here writing them down and sharing them with the world. That too could be good or bad, depending on your perspective. Since it seems to help preserve my sanity, I’m going with the idea that remains a net good overall.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Looking busy. During an average year there are plenty enough times when the number of requirements arriving over the side are large and numerous enough to swamp you before you ever get a chance to close them out. The few days before Christmas are not, generally, one of those times. The real issue now is no matter how important the thing is, the people you need to provide the answers, aren’t around. Sure, you’ll make an effort to close out those things that can be closed out without needing a lot of outside input, but with that done, you’re left largely with either make work projects or simply trying to make yourself look busy. At least when I get back after the first of the year, I’ll have a beautifully set up file system already built for all of those new 2018 emails. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.

2. CNN. The day after a bill passed out of Congress giving most Americans an income tax cut, CNN’s website lead off with the banner headline “Enjoy your tax cuts while they last.” They go on to concede that “a lot of households… will see a lower tax bill in the next several years.” The article largely focuses on the expiration of many of these individual cuts by 2027 – a decade hence. The thing is, though, Congress can pretty much do whatever it wants. Tomorrow they can pass a bill making these cuts permanent. The next day they can pass a bill that changes the date they expire to a week from Tuesday. Sure, I would have loved to see the individual tax reduction provisions made permanent in the original bill, but I’m damned if I’ll reject a reduction now when balanced by what might be a decade in the future. A decade is a hell of a long time in politics – more than enough time to apply maximum pressure to our duly elected representatives to ensure the cuts they’ve made now are made permanent or replaced by better alternatives… and bird in the hand and whatnot.

3. The shortest day. We have the solstice over with now, but it’s a long, dark climb back to a point when we don’t exist as a race of mole people, traversing to and from home each day in utter darkness. I’m sure some people will wax poetic about the majesty of the shifting seasons, but I’d be happy enough stuck on high summer with its ready supply of daytime in big, beautiful 15 hour blocks.

Death and taxes…

Depending on your news source of choice, you’ll hear a lot about the tax bill that just passed through Congress being the best tax overhaul in a generation or the worst catastrophe to ever befall the republic. The line I heard today that most sticks with me, though, is that “the tax bill does the most for the people at the top of the income ladder.”

Um, well, yeah. I guess it does. Those are the people who are paying most of the income taxes collected by the federal government. It seems that any changes at all to the tax code would likely impact them more than it does the 43% of the population who currently pay no income tax.

In a quick review of the discussion, I found that “A Pew Research Center analysis of IRS data from 2015, the most recent available, shows that taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 or more paid well over half (58.8%) of federal income taxes, though they accounted for only 4.5% of all returns filed.” Drop that income level down to $100,000 and it accounts for 80.6% if all federal income tax receipts but only 16.8% of tax returns filed with the IRS.

Let that sink in for a moment. About 17% of those filing their taxes carry more than 80% of the burden of paying income taxes. This doesn’t even account for people who for whatever reason aren’t required to or don’t file with the IRS. I’m not now nor have I ever been a math major, but the numbers do seem to indicate pretty strongly that a small percentage of the population is doing a very large percentage of the heavy lifting when it comes to the overall income tax burden.

Knowing all this, when the discussion comes around to who needs to pay their “fair share” or how wrong it is that the people who actually pay the vast majority of income taxes should benefit from a reduced tax burden, I honestly have no bleeding idea what you’re talking about.

The longest week…

It’s Tuesday. Yawning away on the other side of Friday close of business is eleven days off as I burn away the rump pot of leave left over at the end of the year. We’ve reached the point of 2017 where grinding my teeth and just doing whatever’s necessary to get through the week has become the most important order of business.

​Sure, some of those days will be consumed by the holiday, in making the rounds, putting in appearances, and keeping up the traditions. I don’t really mind those things though. They’re a friendly constant in a world that seems to be bent on upending itself at every opportunity. With those filial obligations tended, though, there’s still a long stretch of days that I’m leaving unplanned, unscheduled, and just barely accounted for on lists of things to do.

In a week that should be winding things down towards a good rest, Olympus seems determined to grind we mere mortals on towards the bitter end. I’m quite sure I’ll be sanctioned for not displaying the requisite good cheer and positive attitude the season demands, but just now I’m going to consider any obstacle at all between me and the 11 day weekend to come an existential threat to my well being and therefore something to be avoided with extreme prejudice.

New rule…

Ok, so I’m going to use today as a learning experience and opportunity for growth and professional development by implementing a new rule. Effective immediately you don’t get to spend two weeks wringing your hands wondering why morale is in the shitter and then start scheduling meetings that don’t start until 6PM. Frankly there’s no better way to wreck whatever small satisfaction I manage to find in the work than making sure I don’t get home until 4 hours after I’m supposed to. It’s fine to preach the importance of balance and being laser focused on people, but if you don’t actually practice those things, I’m not sure why even bother talking about them. Nothing gives the lie to “taking care of people” like doing the opposite.

Sunday at Fortress Jeff…

As I sit down to start writing this, it’s just a few minutes past 8AM. There’s a roast roasting, fresh sheets are on the bed, the vacuum was run through, the creatures have been tended. Even the birds have received their ration of feed. The heavy lifting of the day is done. It’s one of the perks of waking up not far past 5AM (the other being that at such an hour the world outside is brilliantly quiet, though that’s less an issue when winter’s in the air).

Yesterday I uncovered a bottle of unremarkable champaign, sparkling wine from California if we’re to be technical, that I’d stashed in the basement at some point and promptly forgotten about. Usually, finding something in the basement wouldn’t pass for something worthy of mention, except for this morning it’s a good illustration of why I don’t mind so much the 5AM wake up call and it’s corresponding 9PM bed time.

Sunday’s aren’t always a day of rest here. I don’t know how any working person could manage to give away a whole day like that. From time to time, though, the too do list thins a bit, you find a bottle of champaign in the basement, and you get to spend Sunday morning in a comfortable corner with a good book and a mimosa while the sun streams in the window.

If it weren’t for this kind of Sunday at Fortress Jeff from time to time, I’m not at all sure how I’d tolerate Monday through Friday during an average week.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The two weeks of Christmas. I was sitting in a meeting this week where the great and the good were calling for all manner of things to happen in the next two weeks. It’s cute when they’re optimistic like that. Experience tells me that even the most dedicated senior leader is going to find it hard to get jack-all done when 75% of his or her workforce is sitting snug in their homes or on the road for the week before and after Christmas. It’s good to be ambitious. It’s good to have goals. It’s also important to know your limitations, especially when you’re working with a skeleton crew just barely large enough to keep the lights on. Reason 7,471 I have no interest in bossing ever again.

2. Not knowing when to STFU. There is a time and a place for raising new topics or for asking every question. When the guy sitting at the head of the table is trying to close things out and the meeting has already run twenty minutes past its scheduled ending, though, is neither the time nor the place. That’s when you should have been a bureaucrat long enough to know that it’s time to sit there and shut the fuck up.

3. Emergency slide flipping. If there’s anything worse than being stuck in your own meeting, it’s being unceremoniously suck into someone else’s meeting because their computer crapped out and getting it fixed takes days. Look, a) It’s not my program; b) I actually have my own work to do; and c) If we keep finding work arounds to the shit tech support we get it will never have a reason to improve. Being a slide clicker on your own material is bad enough, but the number of times I’ve been yanked away from whatever it was I was doing to flip slides for someone else is astounding. It’s like no one in this place has heard of opportunity cost or return on investment. There are days when I’m entirely convinced I’m the best paid clerk/typist in the whole damned country.