Just in case…

If you live long enough you’re sure to noice there are moments where you repeat habits and patterns of past generations. Resist as much as you want and there are some elements of your parent’s personality that are sure to come through lound and clear despite all protestations to the contrary. As much as the big story today should be that Fortress Jeff is now manufacturing hot air six percent more efficiently than I was when the day started that is, in fact, not the big story… even if the projected savings on electrical and propane changes alone would have rated a mention here.

I’m writing here tonight not to sing the glory of high efficiency HVAC systems, but because I caught myself squarely in the midst of following my father’s footsteps. You see, when I walked through to the kitchen to brew up another coffee, I noticed the demolished remains of the old furnace laying on the driveway. Next to the shredded metal carcass of the furnace was a stack of 3-inch PVC pipe, the former intake and exhaust, that had been cut into neat eight foot lengths ready for disposal. Being my father’s son, of course, I couldn’t let perfectly good PVC pipe get thrown away.

Despite the fact that I have never in almost 40 years had a situation where I though, damn I wish I had a 16 foot length of 3-inch PVC pipe handy, I went out to the driveway and toted the two lengths that were clean cut and without joints back into the garage and leaned them in the corner. I laid them up “just in case,” against a day that when I need just exactly 8 or 16 feet of pipe to take on some project here at the house.

These lengths of pipe join sections of trex and 1×2 that came off the access ramp that use to be in the garage, several coffee cans of mismatched screws, nails, bolts, and nuts, a few smallish squares of drywall, and some leftover tile that matches my kitchen floor. All of it is material in waiting – most likely for a project or requirement that will never come – but ready just in case.

Big slobbery kiss…

No one knows better than me that the best laid plans tend to go wildly off course at the first opportunity. This weekend has proved to be no exception to the First Rule of Operational Planning. Instead of attacking the arm-length list of things to do today, I’m mostly sitting here nursing a sore throat and wondering if I’d be better off switching from coffee to tea with honey and lemon for the day. I don’t feel sick so at least for the moment it’s just another minor irritation making its presence known among so many others.

So today is changing gears. Instead of going out and getting things done I’m going to try being an indoor cat (and getting things done). After all, having some kind of throat crud doesn’t prevent me from doing research, or laundry, or from getting my first attempt at EnemiesListbeef stew in the pot before first light this morning. All I’m really trying to do is avoid talking if at all possible.

If my temperature spikes and this starts looking like Ebola, though, I’ll be out and about quick as you please… Should I find myself about to expire in a agonizing, blood-soaked death there’s a list of people I need to find so I can give them a big slobbery kiss.

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers…

Because I’m perfectly comfortable being lazy and letting blog-worthy ideas come to me instead of chasing them down, I’m opting to respond to a question posted on my Facebook page in response to last night’s blog post. I’ll apologize in advance for the 24 hours delay in getting back to you, Jess, but I hope the fully formed response makes up for its less than timely delivery.

The question: What tools do you use to keep this list and how often do you go to it? And is that just the blog list? What about ideas for books and such? How do you keep track of everything when there is limited time to address any of it? Inquiring minds want to know.

The answer: Starting from the last part of your question, let me go on the record as saying dealing with limited time is the bane of my existence. I’m going to assume for purposes of discussion that I’m not alone in that sentiment. Between a day job, the blog, a couple of longer-term writing projects, and the other mandatory ephemera of life demanding attention, there is always more to do than there is time to do it. I try to keep this in check by an occasional ruthless culling of priorities. Every few months I physically make a list of everything I do as part of my day-to-day routine, rank order them, and then cut away as may at the bottom of the list as I can get away with eliminating.

This method has the unfortunate side effect of having sliced away most of what you might consider hobbies, unfortunately. It’s also led to a greater than reasonable volume of dog hair residing under furniture and in the photocarpets than I’m entirely comfortable with. Having, as I do, a fairly wide OCD streak, learning to accept that dust is unsightly but probably isn’t going to kill you has been a particularly difficult lesson to digest. I’m sure there are very good writers who find some other way of managing their time and getting it all done, but this is a method that works for me. Mostly. If you’re out there with kids or husbands or wives demanding attention, yeah, I’m not sure how you’ll make all that fit. Mercifully the only living creatures I’m responsible for are basically satisfied sleeping under the kitchen table while I do my thing.

Now when it comes to the meat of keeping track of ideas I try to keep it as simple as possible. I know there are a metric crapload of apps specifically designed for list making, but I tend to rely on something simple and understated – the Notes app that came installed on my phone. I chunk out the big ideas into either blog ideas or book ideas with one extra category left over specifically for issues I want to feature on Thursdays as part of What Annoys Jeff this Week. Since I usually have one or two other works in progress on hand at any given time, those generally have their own “note” as well so I can keep them segregated and avoid having a list so long as to make it functionally useless.

I refer to my lists fairly often, though some see more action than others. I try to add ideas as they come to me during the day or especially at night if I wake up with something that feels particularly important. As an aside, no matter what idea comes to you in the middle of the night, write it down so you can give it another look in the light of day. 3AM is a terrible time to make decisions about the virtue of half formed thoughts. Likewise, whipping out your phone in the middle of a deadly dull meeting to jot down the most unintentionally funny thought of the day is frowned upon. When I find myself in those circumstances, painfully separated from the electronic world, there’s no substitute for ye olde pen and paper (provided you transcribe the important parts over to your electronic filing system before your great ideas are lost to the shredder). I’ve lost more “good ideas” than I can imagine by simply assuring myself that I’m sure I’ll remember it later. The hard truth is there isn’t one chance in a hundred that you’re going to remember anything more than the fact that you had an idea that you neglected to write down.

The best and only advice I can give on any of this is to find a system that works for you and apply it mercilessly all day, every day. If you’re going to write five, six, seven times a week, it’s the only way I’ve come up with to even attempt to keep the pipeline full of new and semi-interesting ideas.

Some days…

Some days all I can do is sit at my desk and shake my head. I’m never quite sure if it’s my cynicism getting stronger as I get older or if it’s just the amount of stupid shit I deal with being cumulative. Some days I wish I was one of those people who wander through life not being bothered by what happens to and around them. My God, some days I envy those people who seem to get up and sleepwalk through the day.

I’m not self absorbed enough to believe that I’m the only one who deals with stupidity. Lord help us, the world is overflowing with it. You can’t help but wade through the day up to your knees in the stuff. What I increasingly don’t understand is why those of use who see it and recognize it for what it is, don’t call it out by name. Why do we smile politely and then roll our eyes at the first opportunity? Why does anyone with the least bit of talent at what they do tolerate the vast sea of stupidity that surrounds them?

Despite my best efforts, somehow, for some reason I still apparently give a damn. I can’t help but think that life might just be better if you’re schlepping through it fat, dumb, and happy. Or is life worse and you’re just do bleeding dense to know it?

Library paste…

I’m off my game today. Distracted, unfocused, and generally running well short of personal expectations is no way to spend a Monday. It’s no way to spend any day, really. My head has been all over the map for the last week and there’s not one single thing I’ve touched that’s the better for it. I felt like a Jack Russell with ADD at work today bouncing from one thing elmers_pasteto the next without every really getting a solid grip on any of it. Writing? Yeah, that’s been a joke. I’ve been lucky to string just enough sentences together every day to still consider myself a blogger, but barely. Making headway on any of the other concepts, comments, and works-in-progress that are sitting around at any given time is filed away under “too hard to do.”

I’ve had stretches like this before. They suck. It’s like watching the rest of the world running in fast forward while you’re swimming through library paste trying to keep up. I’ll hit the rack tonight thoroughly frazzled from the day’s mental exertions. If there’s any good to come from it, it’s that on days like this sleep comes fast and hard – and it’s not that sissy light, tossing, turning, dreaming sleep, but a deep, blank stretch of the stuff. I’ll be asleep tonight before my head hits the pillow. Some people pay good money for that kind of sleep, but I’ll get mine no prescription needed.

I’ll find my footing in a day or two. That’s how it always is with this stuff. At least I’m getting someone quality sleep out of the deal.

All go, all day…

The problem with running all day like a house on fire is that you reach a point round about 5PM when all you want to do is sit down and sleep. That’s all well and good, but there’s also that little obnoxious voice in your head reminding you that there are still things that need done… like writing a witty and entertaining blog post on Saturday night. Yeah, I’m honestly not sure this post is going to be either witty or entertaining. I’m not really complaining. I really did get alot done today and since this has been my first weekend home in the last three, I feel good about that. Still, I’d rather not have looked up and realized it was going on 8PM. Maybe I should have cut off the productivity a little earlier. Of course then I’d be sitting here obsessing about the list of things that didn’t get done today. It’s a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Just one of life’s little hardships.

I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to a much abbreviated to do list for tomorrow. Beyond blogging and taking on a few other odds and ends, my only hope is that it’s a good day to get a little more writing done. Sitting down with a good book for an hour or two would just put the day over the top. I’m trying to manage my expectations.

Road miles…

I’ll be logging some miles over the next week. The baseline mileage between now and about this time next week is 664 plus random driving around and at least two days of regular commuting. It would be harder to plan an agenda that would put me in three more far flung parts of the state Travelover a period of a few days. I’m holding my breath because it only seems appropriate that the universe would conspire to have me make some kind of emergency trip to St. Mary’s County and complete the tour of the extreme ends of the State of Maryland.

For a state as dense with highways as Maryland, one of the fun thing you learn when you spend time on the road here is that that there really isn’t a good way to get from one end of the state to the other without first driving around Baltimore. Still, every mile under the wheels this week is 5,280 feet closer to the beach… and that makes a whole lot of road dogging it seem worthwhile.