Inner peace makes for dull blogging…

It’s the middle of the week, a federal holiday buried between vacation days, pouring down rain, and about a gloomy a day as you could find. Businesses are starting to close up and people are beginning to revisit the days of “safer at home” as the Great Plague surges around us. I’ve largely tuned out the 2020 presidential campaign, which I consider over, done with, and not to be gotten back to until closer to the inauguration (aside from occasionally flinging rocks at both sides via Facebook or Twitter).

Put another way, there’s absolutely nothing that I feel a compulsion to talk about today. I’ve taken great pains to make the house a perfectly comfortable retreat from the world. I’m not sure the dogs and I could hold off a Spetsnaz assault team, but for keeping to ourselves through the pandemic whether it lasts a few months or another year, we’re reasonably well set to minimize how much time we need to spend dealing with the world “out there.” 

The days, especially when untroubled by even needing to telework, do tend to blend together a bit though. If it weren’t for knowing yesterday’s vet appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, today would be more or less indistinguishable from Saturday or Monday or the day after tomorrow. I’m a dedicated creature of habit and it doesn’t particularly bother me in any way… but it does make fishing for new topics just a little problematic, which is how you end up with a stream of consciousness mess something like this one.

Fortunately, I can already predict that things will be back to normal tomorrow and you’ll get a full boat of What Annoys Jeff this Week. Some things don’t stop, regardless of how peaceful and docile the week seems. I should probably be thankful for that.

Record setting…

Sometime around 10:00 last Thursday night, jeffreytharp.com set 2020 as its best year for views yet. That’s not a bad place to be at the tail end of October and the numbers, of course, keep ticking up every day. Say what you want about the suffering of life in a plague year, but having people home, bored, and dinking around on the internet has done great things for my numbers.

I’m sure there are people out there who are making an actual living at this. God knows I get enough emails about “monetizing your platform.” That’s never been my goal here, though. The only reason jeffreytharp.com exists at all is as a venue for exorcising some of life’s daily bile without my brain exploding… and maybe offering up a bit of entertainment along the way.

Sure, making a few coins from it would be nice, but I value my position as an amateur bitcher and complainer. Maybe I could take the whole thing pro, but surely it would lose some of its charm when in the back of my head I’m always conscious of what drives views and spend time worried about who might be offended. That’s just a risk not worth taking, so we’ll keep on as we are… because I feel like there’s going to be a lot of things that need saying over the next few months.

Who wants to learn new stuff anyway?

OK. I’ve arrived at an executive decision. Keeping up a weekly feature highlighting “what I learned this week” just isn’t working for me. Call it a victim of COVID-19.

Yes, my home state of Maryland is continuing to open up. I could go eat at a restaurant, do some in-person shopping at local retail establishments, or do many of the other things that people did to amuse themselves in the before time. The catch, of course, is that I didn’t spend a lot of time doing those things back then – and I lack all motivation to do them now. 

Curtailing my primary interests to whatever is happening on my woodsy acre means less opportunity to see something truly new and different that also passes for interesting to a broader audience. I’m still learning plenty, but won’t pretend that finding the perfect mix of herbs and spices for my meat sauce or investigating what’s killing off some of the local pine trees makes for particularly enthralling Friday reading. Likewise, regaling you with what I consider interesting tidbits from whatever books I’m currently reading doesn’t feel like something that would get all that much attention.

For the foreseeable future, I’m putting Friday back into the normal posting rotation. No theme, no special emphasis, just whatever ridiculous shiny bauble happens to have my attention that day. 

Thinking out loud…

I’m usually dead asleep seconds after my head hits the pillow. I’m mercifully untroubled by racing thoughts or ponderings once the lights go out. It would be nice to attribute that to some kind of innate superior ability to make my brain shut up on command, but I’m forced to assume it’s just a simple matter of the way I’m wired.

I did have something of an unnerving thought last night just as sleep was coming on, though. Just as I was drifting off, up from the depths, bubbled the questions “Do you even want to keep blogging or is it just force of habit?”

Sure, it’s not the deep meaning of life style question that some people get while they’re lying in the darkness, but it hit hard enough to stick with me once I woke up this morning, so there must be something there even if it’s just the wisp of a passing thought.

The honest answer is I’m not sure. After 3,181 posts I have no idea if I’m actually saying something new or regurgitating the same 20 topics ad infinitum. There’s never been a unifying focus here – no defining characteristic that I can point to and say this is what I’m writing about – unless you count whatever happens to be on my mind any given day as having a particular focus. Maybe it is, but I’m sure the blogging experts would be quick to point out that one man’s opinion isn’t generally something that monetizes well. Of course that’s never been the point here either. In fact, keeping this platform advertiser free ends up costing me a few dollars every year… although I consider it money well spent to keep banner ads from covering every bit of white space. As long as I’m active here, I’m determined to be the only product being advertised.

You might have noticed by now that I haven’t answered my own bedtime question yet. That’s mostly because I don’t really have a good answer. Some part of me would be happy to give it up and claw back the time. Another part is sure that I still have things to say – and that there’s absolutely no chance of my shutting up on issues as they happen. I’m an opinionated sonofabitch – and even when that opinion isn’t popular or cuts against the running tide, I can’t seem to help but give it voice.

All of that means that I’m not likely to go away willingly. I may take a look at the current five-day a week posting schedule, though. I can’t help but wonder if content wouldn’t be a little more fleshed out if I didn’t rush it through every day to hit my self-imposed 6PM deadline. Taking posts in a little more of a long form direction doesn’t seem like the worst thing that could happen – except for my general lack of interest in or skill at editing, which could prove even more painful than writing something fresh every single day.

Sorry if you were expecting something deep. Today has apparently been just a post where I do some thinking out loud. I’m not sure it’s driven anything towards a decision, but getting ideas down “on paper” always helps me clarify what’s rattling around in my brain… even if it doesn’t make for the most entertaining blogging. 

You ask, I answer…

It pains me to admit this, but a lot of what drives this blog is the need to talk about the people and situations I find myself dealing with at the office. With working from home mostly being the order of the day, I find myself with a significantly reduced level of angst and agitation. Unfortunately that also leaves me with far fewer topics than I usually have knocking around as things to talk about.

So this is where you come in. As we do from time to time, I’m throwing the doors open and inviting you to ask me anything. Is there something you’re dying to know? Is there a topic you think deserves my personal narrative treatment? Do you just want me to sweat out something I’d never even considered writing about? This is your shot.

I’m not going to get hung up on format or directions. Comment directly on this post, leave a comment on Facebook, tweet me, send an email or direct message. I’ll even keep your identity confidential if you’d like. I’m trying to keep this easy for you and interesting for me after all, an anonymity often makes for a more interesting question.

Fire away. The sooner you tell me what’s on your mind, the sooner I’ll be able to give you some kind of half-assed answer.

What I learned this week…

This week was a series of reaffirmations rather than a true voyage of discovery. I stumbled along with many of the old standards – especially the knowledge that it’s a waste of time and effort to pretend that anything that seems like a priority to you will be a priority to anyone else… especially those inside the decision making loop.

I did learn one big thing this week, though. And that’s the the spell check on gmail sometimes does’t work if you don’t safe the email before checking it… which is something I know now because of the absolutely god awful spelling throughout last night’s post.

Sigh.

2019 by the numbers…

It wouldn’t be New Years Eve if I didn’t take a couple of minutes to run you through the numbers for 2019.

In no particular order, here’s what they say:

  • Posts: 204
  • Words: 64,075 Words
  • Visitors: 6,494
  • Views: 9,218
  • Most searched term: jeffrey tharp attorney

Ok, yikes. So first of all, I apologize to anyone who landed here hoping to find a lawyer. I hope my namesake is a good one and everything worked out for you.

2019 was the second biggest year for views and visitors I’ve had here at WordPress. 2013 retains the crown, presumably because I was spitting so much fire about being furloughed that year… but it hasn’t kept the crown by much, so who knows what 2020 will look like.

The most read post for 2019, was a tribute to Winston. I wrote it back in January with tears streaming down cheeks. Even now, almost a year later, I can just barely make it through that post without sobbing.

In a few short hours we’ll consign 2019 to history. I wish I had something deep or insightful to close on, but all I keep thinking is what a truly strange year it has been.

Ten days…

So I just realized that I haven’t posted anything in ten days. As much as I’d like to say I missed it and can’t wait to get back on the schedule, truth is I haven’t even really been thinking about it. I haven’t made many notes and the general aggravation that fuels most of my writing is decidedly absent.

The obvious point here is that it’s clearly the job that pushes me into writing regularly and to vent my spleen. I mean people as a whole are still every bit as annoying as they always are, but without the overarching influence of being in the office, they’re just not agitating me like they usually do.

Vacations don’t last forever, of course. By this time next week I’ll be up to my eyeballs in it and feeling like I was never away at all. I’ll try to squeeze in a couple more posts this week, but believe me when I tell you that the spirit just isn’t moving me. It really makes me wonder if I’ll have to shelve the whole blog completely on the happy day when I finally retire (or hit a multi-state lottery jackpot, whichever comes first).

As it turns out when I’m left to my own devices and away from the influence of working for money, I really have very little I’m compelled to bitch about. Go figure.

Life long learning…

So I’m thinking about launching a new weekly feature… I’m leaning towards something short and pithy highlighting something (or several things) that I learned during that week. Based on the handful of notes I’ve jotted down already, there’s a fair chance that it’s mainly going to be a running list of things I probably should have known already given my advanced age.

I really don’t know if this idea is something that might have the staying power of my venerable series on What Annoys Jeff this Week. It might just be one of those early morning, under-caffeinated ideas that would have been better left where I found it.

I’ve been tinkering for a while now with various ideas of what I could use to plug an ongoing gap on Fridays here. I know that by the end of the week I’m rarely in the humor to churn out a fully formed post, but quick one-offs could fill the bill nicely in moving from a 4-posts per week back to a full service, five posts a week format. I increasingly feel like I need to be writing on Fridays, even if it’s just a little something to keep the fingers moving.

Anyway, we’ll see where it goes from here. Watch this space on Friday evening and you can judge for yourself.

Confessional…

This blog has become something of my own personal confessional. There’s no privacy of course and there are plenty of thoughts I’d never dare put in writing, but it’s definitely got the catharsis of spilling your problems out to a benevolent and receptive audience.

The challenge though is it’s on the days you most need to write, you find the list stocked with things you just can’t say for general consumption.

So you file it away, wondering if maybe it will see the light of day again someday. You go fix a whisky drink and turn your full attention to anything that isn’t what made you want the drink so much in the first place.

The days like that are the exception rather than the rule, but sometimes they do stack up like cordwood. Especially when you realize it’s only bleeding Wednesday.