1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 34 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. Now, I’m told, the alleged negotiation has gone so far sideways that it’s been sent to binding arbitration. Resolution to that could literally take years. So, we’re going to be grinding along for the foreseeable future with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing 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. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. I’m sure someone could make the case that there’s enough blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 34 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing to deliver for their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) and for continuing to stand in the way like some bloody great, utterly misguided roadblock. No one’s interest is served by their continued intransigence. The elected “leaders” of AFGE Local 1904 should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.
2. Going vegetarian. My most recent trip to the doctor involved one of his more humorous suggestions. He ended our visit recommending that I consider going vegetarian. Look, I don’t hate vegetables. I eat a lot of them. But thinking I’m going to opt for a lettuce and tomato sandwich sans bacon this summer ranks well into foolish and wrong territory. He obviously saw the twinkle in my eye, because he then hedged his bets a bit, calling for foods with reduced sugar and salt. OK, I’m not so set in my ways that I object to swaps and adds on spec. Most mornings I’m home start out with a cup of Greek yoghurt and a banana or other fruit. This week I opted to try the “zero sugar” option produced by my favorite yoghurt brand. I might as well have spooned wallpaper paste directly into my mouth. Throughout the day I’ve also been known to throw a handful of peanuts or cashews into my gaping maw from time to time. Fine. I’ll get the unsalted version. Yeah. For all the flavor there, I could just have easily saved my money and gone outside to eat a handful of dirt. I’m sorry doc, but when I’m deciding what to eat, taste and flavor is a pretty damned big deal. You’re never going to convince me to join the “food is fuel” crowd when food is so many other things too.
3. Writer’s strike. There’s apparently been a writer’s strike happening in Hollywood for most of this month. I won’t even pretend to be educated on the reasons for or against. As a consumer of content, I might have reasonably expected to have noticed that there was a strike happening by now. It turns out I don’t watch all that much “new” content. When I’ve been intentionally watching the screen, I’ve been doing a slow re-watch of The Sopranos and Mad Men these last few weeks. As for live television piped into my home by old fashioned cable, my set is usually parked on channels that air reruns of shows with season upon season of episodes available or BBC News to put some background noise in the house. Maybe the writers are victims of their past success. At the rate I’m going I could keep going for a decade before I realize no “new” material was hitting the airwaves. I’m probably an outlier, but with my particular givens, I’m not sure a WGA strike is going to have the impact the writers are hoping to see.
I’m not a well driller, but I know just enough theory to realize that last week’s tinkering around inside the well casing was going to disturb the water column and kick up all manner of detritus. The professionals who raised the pump height and installed the new filter system warned me that it would take at least a day for that to clear up. Likewise, even after flushing the system, it would take a bit of time for any sediment (and ants) already in the system to work their way out. I tried not to dwell on some parts of that discussion too much.
For obvious reasons, I don’t use water like the “average” household, so I mentally allowed a few more days than their estimate. Sure enough, on the third day water from the tap was running crystal clear and free of bits and pieces. it’s a huge step in the right direction.
Whatever’s left of the colony after my application of large amounts of boiling water still needs to be addressed. For now, though, the new and improved shields are holding and I’ve bought a bit of time to find the right solution versus the quick one. The well guy’s advice to “just soak the whole thing in ant killer” doesn’t necessarily feel like the right course of action here. I mean I’m sure it would kill the ants, but it feels like he may not have been giving enough thought to the downstream consequences.
As I’ve said countless times before, I’m not a decision maker.
I can present information. I can counsel. I can advise. In more dire moments I can even warn.
What I am not empowered by policy, regulation, or law to do, however, is make any actual decisions.
After almost 18 years in harness, I feel strongly the right and a duty to express my views on matters of interest. I’ve reached the period of my working life where there’s not much particularly new under the sun. I may not have seen it all before, but laying eyes on a truly unique situation is becoming an increasingly rare event.
Someday, perhaps, there will be those on Olympus who look down upon my pleas and decide that fiddling about for four months before paying any attention may not be the best idea. It turns out, as usual, that today isn’t that day.
Anyway, it turns out I’m almost exactly like the Queen. I can tell the great and the good that they’re about to do something dumb, but there’s not a thing in this great wide world I can really do to stop it happening.
Christmas eve marks the beginning of the point in the year where posting snarky commentary on the internet is more like shouting into a void than any other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. People are focused on other things – friends, family, avoiding friends and family – whatever may be in their holiday tradition. As for me, I mostly drop into a less rigid schedule and post when and whatever the mood of the moment dictates as we all race towards the end of the year.
I find Christmas Eve not so much the start of relaxation as the last gasp of mayhem and chaos as people sprint to the finish line of their shopping quests or trundle cross country to wherever it is they’ll spend the holiday. Maybe later in the day we can all manage to take a deep breath.
For all the buildup, Christmas will be here and gone again nearly before we realize it. Like any other big production with a life of its own, this thing is going to happen. Sure, we can shape it around the margins, but weighing it down with expectations, instance that it must go “just so,” or the quest for a perfect moment will drive you straight to the nuthouse.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there are still a million things to do and despite everything I might say, I won’t get a moment’s rest until they’re all knocked off the list… as if any of you thought just laying back and relaxing was an idea I was going to get behind.
You’re going to find things in life you have a natural aptitude for. Some of them you’ll enjoy doing. Others will become the bane of your existence. Trust me when I tell you that just because you’re good at something that doesn’t in any way mean you’re going to enjoy spending your time working at it. People are going to come along and do their damnedest to cram you into doing that which you do not want to do because it makes their life easier in some way. Want a pro tip? Don’t do it. Run as far and as fast as you can in the other direction.
Most people are going to spend at least 40 hours or so a week doing something – probably something that you don’t particularly love, because frankly the people who tell you to follow your passion never seem to have any sense of how low the pay scale is for those toiling away on their “passion jobs.” Still, if you value your sanity at all, at least angle yourself towards doing something that doesn’t make you want to split skulls by the end of the day. You’ll thank yourself later.
It’s mostly too late for me. My path for the foreseeable future seems to have been set. I’m to play the role of professional events coordinator – from registration booths to floral centerpieces, I’m a one stop shop. I’ll do it and do it well, because that’s just what I do, but I’m begging you with tears in my eyes, don’t let that happen to you. Yes, I could plan the hell out of your next birthday, wedding, or bar mitzvah but that in no way should lead you to think that I’d in any way enjoy the process.
I’ll conclude tonight by saying loud and clear what I must mutter to myself a dozen times a day: FML. This is so not what I signed up for.
1. Priorities. So here’s a little friendly advice from your kindly Uncle Jeff: When everything is the most important, absolutely nothing is important. All claims of being able to multi-task aside, it’s been my professional experience that when you’re trying to give equal attention to three things at once, all there of them are going to end up being half-assed at best. Want to do a good job on something? Go ahead and focus on that one thing until it’s finished or at least until it’s at a logical place to pause and then go work on something else. Repeat this process as needed until everything is done. Jumping randomly from this to that with no actual planning or thought behind why you’re doing what you’re doing is mostly guaranteed to end badly for everyone involved. In those cases where you can’t take this advice, be prepared to apply a large helping of “I told you so” when things go to hell in a handbag.
2. The happy customer… 12 hours later. About 12 hours after singing the praises of Amazon Prime and Amazon customer service, an email landed in my inbox informing me that the price of membership is going up $20 a year. Sure, it’s probably just a fluke, but it feels an awful lot like this Amazon just decided that since I like them so much, I won’t mind paying an additional 25% premium for it. This is clearly what happens when you say something nice. Therefore in the future, I’ll try to remember to only raise criticism and keep the kudos to myself. From here on out everything sucks and is bad, regardless of how much I like it.
3. Situational awareness. Snap judgements aren’t always right, but I’ve got a pretty decent talent for looking at where things stand and knowing when there’s a bad moon rising. I almost wish I didn’t. I’d probably be a happier human being if I wandered around not particularly aware of what’s likely to be over that next rise. Some days having decent judgement is a gift, but lately it’s felt like a real curse.
The week of Thanksgiving heralds the arrival of that most magical and wondrous time of year… and I’m not talking about Christmas with its faux joy, peace and goodwill towards people you otherwise can’t stand. I’m talking about the four weeks between the holidays when nothing gets done and everyone is busy burning off what’s left of their annual leave. In short: Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the long march towards the end of the year when there are fewer colleagues around asking reports, wanting to see slides, and generally pretending to be productive. It’s the time of year when the pretense of being productive falls away. Sure, that’s only because there are barely enough people around to keep the lights on, but beggars shouldn’t be choosers.
There are going to be plenty of people running around for the next month trying to put together pick up meetings or cram on one more “special project” before 2014 rolls in, but mostly even they know they’re putting on a show for the sake of appearances. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who really thinks they’re going to be able to get anything significant accomplished at this time of year. That makes for a low key environment… and low key makes me exceptionally happy.
If I haven’t learned anything else from being a drone these last 11 years it’s that this time is fleeting. Before you know it, and well before you’re ready for it, we’ll be back to the full-on grind. So the advice from your kindly Uncle Jeff? Take some time. Slow your roll and remember that no one ever saved the universe with their PowerPoint slides. Even when you think what you’re doing is important, there are well over seven billion people on the plant who don’t care if you live or die.
I was once like you. I was young and ambitious. I wanted to streak up the career ladder further and faster than anyone. For those out there who want to climb, you’re eventually going to reach the point where you’ll be required to make a life-altering decision. You’re going to have to reconcile a nominal pay increase with the enormous pain in the ass that is becoming a first line supervisor.
If you’re even hesitating for a second in deciding whether that’s something interesting to you, let me key you into a secret – It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it at twice the pay. Sure, if you’re lucky there are going to be one or two hard chargers in your group, but most of the rest are going to be average at best and you’ll land an unholy sprinkling of dregs, sociopaths, malcontents, and those whose best service would have been to retire a decade or two ago.
Take a bit of advice from someone who was ambitious before you came along. Find yourself a nice mid-level position, gather the reins of a couple of projects, and enjoy a fruitful career concerned with meeting your own deadlines and being limited mostly by only your own capacity to work. Don’t, under any circumstances, allow them to make you a supervisor, team leader, or any other euphemistic term for becoming part of the problem rather than its solution. You’ll end up looking back at what started out as a promising career and wondering when it became a low-budget shitshow.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
I’m generally considered a pretty smart guy, but I have never understood the thought process that goes on in the mind of chicks when they are making potentially life altering decisions. I’m a planner by habit as well as by profession and one thing I can say with a far degree of certainty is that “butterfly feelings” in the stomach area and how cute it was because he cried are generally not major planning considerations. In fact, I’d go so far to say that they are, in fact, a poor basis for any decision-making process.
Decisions of significance are made after careful analysis of the possible and likely outcomes, the severity of risks, consultation with subject matter experts, and a through “scrub” to make sure you are even asking the right questions. Without applying an overlay of logic to the process, decisions basically become “guesses.” And quite frankly, it has been my experience that life is far too short and time is far too precious to stumble from one point to another based on my best guess
I don’t mind dispensing advice; in fact I rather enjoy doing it. But please, ladies, when you ask, remember that I’m going to apply logical analysis to the situation rather than take stock in whatever butterfly effect you might be feeling. And if at some point one of you can explain to me what I’m missing here, please, please clue me in. I’m serious here people, I know there are a lot of you out there who read on a regular basis. I just want to understand what I am working with here. Can one of you dear readers enlighten me?
OK, so I’m man enough to admit my own weaknesses here in front of God, my blog readers, and everyone… I’m nervous as shit about the whole first date thing. I haven’t been on a “real” first date in the better part of two years. The solution to that issue, of course, is to do my research. I want to pause here and say what a wonderful thing the internet is… I mean, it’s so much more than just porn when you actually take the time to look around a little.
I live my life by Google. If Google doesn’t know the answer, I don’t really need to either. Unfortunately, the advice from Google on first dates is slightly contradictory… Be nice… but not too nice; be a gentleman, but don’t open doors; pick up the tab, but think about splitting the bill so there’s “no pressure.”
No pressure? You’re shitting me, right? I’ll consider myself lucky if I only avoid spilling my entre in my lap tomorrow. I’m going in. Keep me covered.