1. Still waiting. Here we are 9 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published nine weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.
2. Medical records. Online medical records are great, except the part where the system used by my primary care provider and the system used by one of my specialists don’t in any way communicate with one another. There’s also no obvious way to manually upload information from one to the other. A quick call to my PCP’s office confirmed that “Yeah, it really doesn’t do that.” Super. So, I’ll just continue to schlep hard copy of reports and test results around like it’s 1957 because that’s still easier than finding and using a goddamned fax machine in the year of our lord 2022.
3. Advertising. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I’ve once again received an email from every company I’ve done business with for the last 20 years. I don’t know what they think they’re accomplishing, but it doesn’t feel like effective advertising… unless their definition of effective is to jam up my inbox with stuff I’ll delete before reading and thereby fill a potential customer with questions about whether he wants to do business with them again. I’m sure there’s some advertising industry metric that shows why mass email blasts is a good idea. Maybe it works for some consumers, but it doesn’t do much for me other than piss me directly off.
Elon Musk has always engendered my curiosity. From Tesla and The Boring Company to his new role as chief of fucking around and finding out with Twitter, the man may be a lot of things, but dull and uninteresting isn’t generally considered one of them.
As much as he captures my interest, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. I tend to think he’s a guy whose demons are at least as big as his better angels. Still, he’s undeniably entertaining to watch if you come at it from a slightly nihilistic perspective.
Elon’s most recent hot take, that somehow Freedom of Speech equals buying ads on Twitter, is one of those times where he just makes my head hurt. He’s obviously smart enough to know that what we commonly call “freedom of speech” precludes the government from sanctioning you, the individual, (or you the company) from things you say. It doesn’t in any way protect you from other people or businesses deciding you’re absolutely crammed full of shit and opting to not work with you.
While Elon is perfectly free to say anything he wants and use Twitter in whatever way he chooses, what he isn’t, and can’t be, is free of the natural consequences of his words and actions. In the free marketplace of radical individualism that he seems to espouse, people (and companies) voting with their feet and their wallets, should be the thing he most welcomes. The fact that the big advertisers have left in droves, is sending a message, but Elon seems determined to misinterpret the signal.
1. The algorithm. Every third ad Facebook has served me in the last couple of weeks is some variation of “Are you saving enough for retirement?” It’s a fine question and I’m almost laser focused on what I need to do to be able to walk out the door in 14 years and 18 days and never work again, but I promise you I’m not taking financial advice from the place I go to find dirty memes and posts about who got arrested in the area.
2. Timing. I’ve been plugging away for six years, putting a bit of money back here and there to correct the deficiencies in my master bathroom. Every time I got close to hitting my estimated budget number, some other critical project would come along and shave a few thousand dollars off that particular pile of cash. During the Great Plague, I managed to finally hit my number… and of course now the cost of building material has gone through the roof. I’ve gone ahead and put out the call for quotes to a couple of local builders, though. It seems my timing for this project is never going to be good… so the only thing left is to proceed. Doing otherwise feels like an open invitation to wake up one morning after another six years and realizing I’m still schlepping down the hall to take a shower.
3. Extortion. This week, one of the main oil pipelines servicing the east coast of the United States was held hostage. It’s owners reportedly paid $5 million to a vaguely described group of Russian or Eastern European cyber terrorists to regain control of their network. Here’s the thing… the Colonial Pipeline is, by definition, key infrastructure. We’ve seen the news reports of the chaos caused by this brief interruption. Setting aside that much of the panic was entirely self-inflicted by people rushing to fill every container they could find, our enemies have also seen the chaos a service disruption in one of our major pipelines can cause. Paying out millions of dollars was a business decision… but what I want to know is why we’re not now seeing reports of cruise missiles leveling the known and suspected safe harbors from which these and other cyber terrorists operate. If a country or non-state actor blew up a building or bridge, we’d come crashing down on their head like a mailed fist. I don’t make a relevant distinction between those who’d launch a kinetic attack and those who do their damage with keystrokes.
Today was my first planned “day off” in 2021. It was, in part, intended as a day to catch a deep breath before diving in to what are historically my most ridiculous two or three weeks of my year. It was also an opportunity to celebrate having all my shots and getting back to doing one of the few things I like doing that doesn’t involve staying home with the critters.
I didn’t plan a lot of these “one off” days during the plague year. A long weekend when things aren’t open or when going anywhere there might be people is ill advised felt a bit superfluous. Better to hold the days while I wait and see.
Today wasn’t actually the day I planned. I was going to troll through a couple of local used book shops, maybe do some antiquing, and call it a triumphant return to normalcy. A week or two ago, though, a friend inadvertently reminded me of a shop about an hour away that I’ve long had my eye on, but had never visited. What better way to note my newly acquired immunity than heading out to a new place?
The Baldwin Book Barn promises 300,000 volumes across four stories of a former dairy barn. A family run bookseller since 1938, I could hardly expect to find the dollar bin wonders I turn up from less specialized places. Still, the Baldwin’s place didn’t disappoint in any way. It was exactly as advertised in all respects.
I walked away with half a dozen books – a few hole fillers, a few that drew my interest in the moment, and one rather nice 100+ year old history of colonial Maryland. A few others were a treat to hold and page through, but would have outstripped my merger book budget by about 1000%.
I got to spend the morning awash in a sea of books and as a bonus had a pleasant drive through southeastern Pennsylvania horse country. I’d be hard pressed to think up a better way to spend a Friday… even if it will take me weeks to recover from being in the same room with as many as ten people simultaneously.
1. Algorithms. Facebook has recently decided that all of my personalized advertising should be focused on selling me condos in New York, Philadelphia, or DC. I’d be hard pressed to think of where I would want to live less than any of those places. I mean if there was property for sale in a Molokai at the leper colony, I’d be decidedly more interested in it than I am in East Coast city living. Chalk this one up to one of the small ways I know Big Tech still hasn’t completely figured me out.
2. Sport. If COVID-19 hasn’t done anything else, it’s at least muted the coverage of sports in America. With wall to wall coverage of the pandemic, hurricanes, wildfires, and the presidential election, professional sports, even in the midst of their own protests, has largely been a below-the-fold story. It’s a pity it won’t stay there once the other stories run their course. Athletes, like the rest of us, are entirely entitled to have an opinion… but I remain under no moral, ethical, or legal obligation to care what a bunch of grown adults who spent their time chasing a ball think about the topics of the day.
3. Baltimore. Fifty people were shot in Baltimore last week. It would be easy to blame that on guns – it’s what various Mayors and councilors of Baltimore have done for years. It’s always easier to blame the tool than blame the trigger-pulling constituents themselves. I wonder, though, how much of it is really do to what I have observed as the general ineptitude of city government throughout my adult lifetime. Currently the city can’t manage to keep up with the most basic services like trash collection. What hope, then, is there that the same august group of august leaders will stumble upon the secret sauce to bring violent crime under control? I have great faith that we can rely on them to keep doing what they’re doing while expecting different results.
I have long suspected that what ultimately drives this blog – what makes for the most interesting content – is largely the angst that annoyance that comes from one or two major sources. The first, of course, is anything at all that relates to traveling to, enduring the day at, or coming back from the office. That’s a shitshow that is near universal and provides an endless well for new posts – or maybe it’s just the same fifteen or twenty posts repeating over time. The other main driver, one that’s more general, comes from any time that I’m required from dealing with the general public. My thoughts about people as a group are well known by now… like the office, though, they are an bottomless source of things to comment on.
Spending four or five days mostly ensconced at home with books and animals significantly decreases the number of things I feel the need to bitch and complain about. Sure, I guess I could ry my hand at writing some happy, uplifting shit, but that doesn’t strike me as anything close to speaking with my authentic voice… and I suspect it would be far less entertaining for anyone who happened to read it. If people really liked good news stories, the cable news channels would be filled with them rather than with the regular mayhem and chaos that they know puts eyes on advertising.
So what’s the point here? I’m not sure I have one beyond wanting to share what, I jotted down today and promptly rejected as topics for today:
Earthquakes. Why the hell do people live in California? It burns down regularly and the damned earth shakes. I don’t care how nice the weather is, that seems like a bad tradeoff.
Women’s World Cup. Team USA is getting hectored for “too much celebrating.” Fuck all the way off with that noise.
4th of July “military parade.” So the left decried the “military trade” in DC on the 4th of July… that turned out to be something like 4 vehicles put on static display near the Lincoln Memorial. Somehow I think the republic will endure.
Jeffrey Epstein. If I were a billionaire, I’m 100% sure I’d find something to do with my time and money that’s way less likely to send me to prison than sex trafficking of minors. Money can buy a lot of things, but even giant honking piles of cash can’t fix stupid.
Sigh. I hate to admit it, but it’s probably best that the holiday is over and it’s time to get back to work and people. I’ll be annoyed as hell, but the writing will be better, so there’s that.
Online marketing has a long and impressive history of trying to sell people things they don’t really need. With their add on items and overwhelming presence on social media, the “things” are hard to miss most of the time. Some people find targeted advertising intrusive, personally I’m a bit more ambivalent about it. That ambivalence comes largely because of how often Amazon and the other online retailers shoot their shot and get it laughingly wrong.
My all time favorite is still the real estate company in New York City that somehow ended up with me in their target demographic for “people who want to live in New York and have $2.5 million to spend on an apartment.” There’s literally no part of that estimation that they got right, though in their defense I’m sure the apartments they were hawking were very nice.
The add that’s giving me the most current belly laughs is brought to you by Amazon, who seems determined to sell me a “Ember Temperature Control Ceramic Mug, Black.” I like tech as much and in some cases more than the next guy, but I have never sat down with a steam cup of coffee and thought, “You know what I need? I need a battery powered, rechargeable ceramic mug that I can control from my phone.” The idea of needing such a thing has simply never occurred to me. I mean I can melt my face off well enough after an hour or two with coffee traveling in one of my $12 Yeti knock off mugs.
I’m all for the forward march of technology, but paying an extra $67.99 for the added “benefit” of the mug having a battery with a one hour run time feels, well, just a little bit like someone’s trying to solve a problem that no one really has.
One of the walls of the room wherein I’m trapped for eight hours a day features three large televisions. At any given time at least one of them shows a feed from the major cable news outlets shouting the current headlines at us. You don’t realize how little “new” news happens in a day until you spend months with rehashes and repeats washing over you every 30 minutes. It’s possible there’s a lot of news breaking out there somewhere, but it’s an awfully small portion that anyone is going to spend time talking about (and trying to monetize through advertising).
One of the better side effects of this 40-hour a week exposure is that my brain seems to have developed a basic self-preservation strategy of tuning almost all of it out. When someone asks “hey did you hear that?” I can usually respond honestly with, “no.” The other side effect I’ve noticed is that this constant stream of news has left me bereft of the desire to watch or seek out any news for the rest of the day.
With the exception of a few minutes of local weather and finding out the daily body count in Baltimore when I get home from work, the rest of the night is almost completely news free. I should show more of an interest, but I find this newfound disinterest to be a remarkably freeing experience. Sure, I still care what goes on in the world, but I’m becoming a hell of a lot more selective about what I want to burn an increasingly limited amount of mental bandwidth learning about or engaging on.
Some news is good for entertainment value (when bad things happen to stupid people), other bits are good to know because it impacts finances (business news and federal budget stuff), and finally there’s the space allocated to any news or information involving animals. Past that, maybe I should care, but I just don’t. Whatever intellectual energy I have left once I get home is far more effectively spent focused on the next spy novel or great thick books about war.
I intend this self-imposed (partial) news blackout to continue indefinitely.
Whoever it was that came up with the idea of autoplaying a video as a website opens should rot in hell right next to the guy who invented the pop up ad. For most sites I’m fully understanding that generating income from ads is how you make your money. Running a website and keeping up content isn’t an inexpensive proposition. I spend $50 a year out of pocket to keep the lights on here in my little sector of the web. I could be ad driven and defray some of that cost, but I’m determined that it’s just not worth it. Ad free content is, in my opinion, better for the reader as well as for the writer.
Usually this is something that would wait for the weekly roundup of WAJTW, but it doesn’t feel right to pile it into a list with three other things when it is so patently obnoxious. I’ve steadfastly avoided downloading ad blocking software because I know that even on the internet everyone has bills to pay, but with the ever increasing intrusiveness of your ads, I’m only another few bad experiences away from giving up my scruples and loading up some software to kill off as many of these ads as possible.
Site owners need to find a better model. No matter how good your content is, if I have to deal with an advertisers video yelling at me with no apparent off switch or pop ups that take up two thirds of the screen space, I’m not interested enough in what you’re saying to wade through the mess to look at it. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but if advertisers designed spots that were somehow compelling instead of just being annoying maybe I’d actually click over and have a look. As it is, I’ll just close the screen and go find my content elsewhere.
I’ve seen a commercial on television for the US Postal Service over the last few days. I’m going to set aside the fact that there has been a postal service in this country since the revolution and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least bought a stamp or received a letter at some point in their lives and focus on what I really find odd about seeing the post office on TV.
The ad is clearly trying to drum up package handling business for the USPS; trying to remind their customers that they do more than “mail.” That’s well and good. The real issue of the thing is how they go about it. Whatever ad agency they paid millions to for this campaign didn’t focus on things like accuracy, on time delivery, or even cost. Instead they went an entirely different direction, literally having one of the people in the spot say the line “We’re going to be there anyway” while urging us to use them as our parcel deliverer of choice.
We’re going to be there anyway. It doesn’t exactly fill me with lofty visions or assurances of my package getting where it’s supposed to go. It feels like the barest step up from “Give us your stuff and hope for the best.” If they’re trying to swing my business away from UPS or FedEx, I’m afraid the post office is going to need to try something a little more confidence inspiring in their approach.
The truly disturbing part is that somewhere deep in the bowels of Post Office Headquarters, a committee of thoughtful and well compensated people thought that ad was right on point – the very best their money could buy. Maybe it was the least bad of several options, but still I think I’d have gone in a different direction. Then again, they got me to spend a whole 30 minutes thinking about the Post Office. Even if I’m not going to use them, that’s something.