1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 33 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 33 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. House Republicans. Instead of lining up to throw George Santos, the absolute embarrassment of a representative who has already admitted to being a liar and fraudster and has been indicted on 13 counts of various crimes, out of the House of Representatives, Republican members of the House opted to refer the matter over to the black hole that does business as the House Ethics Committee. When they can’t put the republic ahead of politics on this very simple question of whether or not George is fit to continue in office, I have very little doubt that their position on any issue of substance will be equally as poisoned. Politicians have always been a self-serving bunch, but I miss the good old days when they at least had the common decency to pretend to be embarrassed when one of their own was caught out in the midst of being a common criminal.
3. My brain. Not including the few scattered hours here and there to attend to medical appointments, I‘ve taken exactly one vacation day since January 1st. My brain, usually reasonably agile, is about as responsive as a five gallon bucket of sludge. I won’t testify to anyone else noticing, but I certainly have. This week, when I should be focusing in on the latest adventure in party planning that’s made its way to my desk, I’m struggling to put proper sentences together. Words and how they work is sort of my stock in trade. If the paragraphs read like gibberish to me, how they’ll read to someone seeing the information cold for the first time is deeply suspect. Despite my best efforts, my head seems determined to focus on counting down the minutes and hours to the nine day break I’ll start next Friday. It’s a happy thought, but not especially helpful in getting me through the week between here and there.
Personally, I’m in a good place… and that place is the time of year when I’m about to start burning off sizable chunks of vacation time to scour the mid-Atlantic region for all manner of used and vintage books. It’s a time of long summer twilights, evenings reading on the patio, and undisturbed stretches of free time. The run of days from the first week of June through the first week of July are, for me, the year’s apogee. Barring unforeseen events, there’s generally not anything better.
Professionally, by contract, it’s determined to be a season beset by stupid – both people and things. It’ll be catching up on mandatory training, and preliminary planning for parties and events that by right ought not to belong on my plate, and for whatever as yet unknown fuckery finds its way into my inbox. I won’t say it’s the worst of times, because that title belongs to another era entirely. Those days were bleak… These, in comparison, are mostly just obnoxious.
Still, it feels like an odd dichotomy. Although if one of the two must be a clusterfuck, I greatly prefer that particular dark cloud settle over the “work stuff.” I’ve spent a lot of time and effort rigging up a pretty reliable firewall between work stuff and home stuff. Whatever asshattery is taking place at work very rarely bleeds through to home. The barrier is somewhat less robust in the other direction.
By the time that first week of June arrives, it’ll have been six months since I took any significant time off. Right about now I’m feeling all those intervening days. I’m deeply, viscerally, looking forward to not needing to present the illusion of giving a single fuck about training rates, parties and events, or reviewing people’s requests to use the dumb auditorium. A few days wandering deep in the stacks is precisely what Dr. Jeff ordered as a restorative cure for the madness that seeps in from the “professional” side of the firewall.
So, the last week wasn’t great times. Personally and professionally there were a lot of moving parts that never quite meshed among themselves or with each other.
Monday and Tuesday I worked from home and all was well, or at least it was well until the storms rolled through, trees fell over, and grid power crapped out and took my access to the internet along with it. No internet means no working from home. Which was a problem because Wednesday was a day where the general contractor was making a big push to get a lot of work done and I needed to be home. Chalk it up to an unplanned day off while the bathroom contractors did their work using generator power. At least someone was getting some work done.
By Thursday morning power and internet were back, but I couldn’t log in to my work computer. After six hours of sitting around waiting for the help desk to get back to me, I was duly informed of the reason why I couldn’t sign in. It seems I was delinquent at completing mandatory annual cyber security training and had been unceremoniously expelled from the network until I took the class, sent in my certificate, and genuflected six times in the direction of the IT office.
Under normal circumstances none of those things would be more than an inconvenience, but there’s a catch. Because of course there’s a catch. Because of reasons, this training can’t be completed from a personal computer. I had to be on the official network, which means I had to schlep in to the office and use someone else’s machine. That’s great, of course, except last week was a steady parade of general contractors and painters trying to wrap up my bathroom remodel. They had full days scheduled on Friday and Monday. With so many more or less unknown elements coming and going at different hours, leaving the house for any length of time just wasn’t something I was willing to do.
The net result between weather and home improvement was burning off three unplanned days of vacation time last week. Adding another 24 hours to the 64 hours of leave I’ve already burned this year to mostly hang out at the house while other people do work. It doesn’t feel like a great way to take the lion’s share of your yearly vacation days.
Yes, I still have a mountain of combined annual and sick leave on the books. If I don’t take any more vacation time, other than what’s already have scheduled, I’ll still carry over the maximum amount allowed, but also means facing the next five months with no impromptu days off. That feels… stifling. I have grave doubts about whether I’ll be able to pull it off no matter how my good intentions.
I’ll never turn my nose up at a federal holiday. If you want a holiday to celebrate or recognize someone or some thing, I’ll support you. Juneteenth? Sure. 9/11 Day? Yep. Kwanzaa? I’m in. Lunar New year? Sign me up. I’m happy to take any day off that the brain trust that is the US Congress wants to put on the books.
I just wish a few more of them would fall between the middle of February and the end of May.
Washington’s Birthday is always the holiday that hurts most, because it’s the holiday that leads in to the long slog through the spring of the year. In my mind there’s no worse part of the calendar than the stretch from Presidents Day to Memorial Day. It’s three months, a quarter of the year, or about 98 days, with nothing aside from standard issue weekends. Those weekends account for 28 days if you’re trying to do the math in your head.
I know, an extra day here or there doesn’t make a huge difference, but they do serve as helpful marks on the wall. If nothing else, they’re some small point of light to look forward to among the normal grind of spreadsheets, PowerPoint, and event planning. Sure, I could just burn off some of my own vacation days, but they just don’t feel as good as “free” holidays.
I normally try to struggle through the first half of the year without breaking into any of my own days. They make a nice reserve for the back half of the year, when the weather is better and I’m well and truly tired of everyone’s shit. Here in February, it means my normal early June tranche of vacation days still feel like something way out over the horizon. Almost a figment of my imagination.
So yeah. Call your senators and representative and tell them we absolutely need a few more federal holidays in the mix. Since they can’t figure out how to pass a budget or do any actual programmatic oversight, it feels like the least they could do for us.
You might think that coming off a few days of vacation time, I’d be feeling rested and have an improved outlook.
That’s not really my style, of course. These days off only whet my appetite for the future date when I’m no longer bound to toil for wages. It’s why I relentlessly track that mark on the wall. It’s especially true when my return is met with three days of backlogged email filled with messages about projects that recur year after year and combine to be the bane of professional existence.
It’s Telework Monday and that does marginally improve my outlook. At this way insult isn’t coupled with the injury of eight hours of fluorescent lit cubicle hell.
It might sound like after this short rant, I should be embracing the siren’s song of anti-capitalism. Nothing could be further from reality, though. Universal basic income or whatever something for nothing schemes are in vogue now surely wouldn’t be lucrative enough to support any kind of lifestyle I’d want to live. Exchanging time for money remains the most efficient and effective way to procure good and services I want while building a future in which my time really will be entirely my own.
That’s absolutely a play I’m willing to make, but it doesn’t mean for a moment I have to pretend I’m having a good time while I’m doing it. It’s better to schlep through the asshattery to get where you want to be, even if that means bitching and complaining all the way, I’d think.
I started the latest in my ongoing series of very long weekends at 4:00 this afternoon. My out of office message is set, my laptop is packed away, and I won’t be sparing another thought about COVID, or briefings for industry, or taskers for the next five days. It’s a decidedly good feeling.
I have no real plans to speak of. I’m sure there will be a bit of junking and book hunting in the mix, but for tonight there’s nothing that even passes for a plan. I’ll be going as close as I ever do to playing it by ear. I’m not sure my version would pass as anyone else’s idea of spontaneity, but I’m ok with it.
I usually try to keep the blog schedule moving along without interruption during these vacation days, but as always, for the next few days I’m reserving the right not to sit down at the computer unless I’m really feeling a strong bit of motivation. I really have no idea whether I’ll be posting for the rest of the week or not. It’s a total coin toss.
Not to worry, of course. Even if I’m quiet here for a few days, there’s not much chance at all of me shutting up on Facebook or Twitter, so you can always treat yourself to a micro-rant elsewhere on your preferred social media platform.
1. Lip reading. Until everyone started wearing masks, I had no idea how much lip reading I do. Short conversations are ok – checking out with groceries or picking up a carryout order – but anything longer, and certainly conversations that involve any level of detail, are just harder when I can’t see someone’s mouth moving. I find myself asking for repeats way more often than would seem to be necessary… and yet here we are. I suppose it’s good practice for when the years of loud radio playing and Jeep noise catch up to me in earnest.
2. CNN. God love them, CNN seems to take a special delight in painting surging home prices as the worst thing ever. Sorry. What? I’m supposed to be upset that I’m building fantastic amounts of equity while simultaneously having a place to live? If nothing else, home ownership through this moment is an excellent hedge against the creeping inflation that CNN also likes to wring their hands over. Yep, it’s hard to be a buyer right now. In other markets at other times, it was hard to be a seller. Trying to pretend the real estate market can or should be static is a bad take for an alleged source of financial news.
3. Waiting. I’m just about a week shy of kicking off Summer Vacation Part I. It’s not decamping for the islands for a week or anything, but it is the first stretch of uninterrupted days off I’ll have had since the new year started. Five months into 2021 and it’s safe to say I’m ready for the break… beyond ready. Eager is probably a better description. Perhaps you could even say I’m giddy with anticipation of 11 days without email, Teams, ringing phones, door buzzers, meetings, or network problems. That’s the issue, really. Slogging through another week when my head is desperately fleeing into vacation mode is going to be exhausting.
I’ve taken one day of vacation time since coming back to work following New Years. From my vantage point here on June 26th, what I can say with some certitude is that in the future I probably won’t let nearly all my leave roll over to the back half of the year. Even in the face of a pandemic that effectively precludes using that time off for anything beyond tinkering around the house, I’m recognizing that I should have been burning a few hours now and then.
Working from home is infinitely better than working in the office, but just because the set is dressed like a “day off” there’s still the actual work that needs doing – so my long term telework experience has been one of presenting the illusion of down time without any of the relaxing or restorative effects that traditionally go along with time not being spent in the office.
I’m going to start correcting that issue over the next couple of weeks by taking an actual four day weekend for Independence Day, scheduling a few vet appointments, and an eye exam and starting to think hard about how I plan on burning the balance of this year’s vacation time, even knowing that in all likelihood I won’t be going anywhere or doing anything particularly exciting with that time.
It turns out that having just a bit of down time blocked off to go handle a few of these “must do” activities is enough to start improving my outlook. I’ll be looking for an even more marked improvement in my mood when I pack a few actual breaks onto the calendar.
I’m not sure any of that qualifies as something I learned this week, but whatever. It’s Friday. Give me a break.
1. Embedded links. We have you a nice, prettied up agenda. We even tucked the event links into the text of the document so it wasn’t a three line line long ugly-assed URL. But that doesn’t stop several hundred of you from not reading for comprehension and emailing that you can’t find the URLs. I mean how the hell hard is it to either click the embedded link directly or to right click and copy the link to paste it in your browser? Given that two thirds of your contemporaries managed to get it done without our help, I’m forced to conclude that one third of the total are just total mouth breathing wastes of space.
2. Podcasts. I haven’t deleted any social media friends as a result of COVID-19, protests, riots, or political affiliation but in the last week I’ve dropped a shit ton of podcasts that have vered way the fuck off topic. Everyone’s entitled to their position and perfectly free to use their platform to do whatever they want, but if I show up expecting insights on contemporary television and find deep dives on politics and current events, I’m out. I’m headed to my podcast list to avoid the general fuckery on television, not to find more of it. Hard pass.
3. Steady working. So far during the Great Plague, I’ve been steady working. I’ve missed my scheduled vacation and now the couple of days I usually take off immediately following the massive organizational vanity exercise that I’m nominally charged with carrying off every year. Yes, I’ve been working from home… but it’s still very much working and having my head in that space continually. Physically being back “on campus” these last few days just feels like heaping insult atop injury and it’s got me moody as fuck. Plague or not I think I’m going to need to start burning some days off that sweet, sweet pile of vacation time sooner rather than later.
This week is something of a scheduling oddity due to a confluence of unrelated events. It features a federal holiday, a telework day, half a day off for a dental appointment, and day of annual leave “just because.” That leaves exactly 1.5 days of time physically spent in the office. On one hand, of course, that feels like 1.5 days too many, but on the other it feels like just about right amount.
Of all the things I bitch about you’ll very rarely find the amount of time off I have in my hip pocket making the top 50, let alone the top ten. I know exactly how lucky I am to have that big beautiful stack of vacation days and sick leave sitting there waiting for me to use them.
Right now I’m making up lost ground to tend to appointments I didn’t have time to make in the first four months of the year and burning off days here and there to do things that are just more easily accomplished on weekdays than weekends. After the planned 5-day 4th of July weekend, the burn rate will settled down to a more sustainable rate for a few months. I suppose every week can’t be exceptionally short.
Those full, 5-day work weeks through the height of summer are going to make for a difficult adjustment. Sigh. I need to do something exceptional and get myself a nice time off award in order to stave off the madness just a little longer.