Having spent the last week and a half taking in a steady diet of new from the UK, I tried this morning to adjust back to information from sources closer to home. It wasn’t a particularly happy reunion.
Aside from the local weather forecast, I’d be hard pressed to tell you about a single story covered my go-to station out of Baltimore that I could gin up any interest in at all. Murder, mayhem, hints of corruption – nothing new under the sun. Switching over to CNN it was the predictable drumbeat of catastrophic weather, rerunning the election of 2020 and the general fuckery surrounding it, and all manner of talking heads I’m increasingly convinced don’t have the first idea about what’s happening or why.
I’m sure there are a host of things I should be interested in, or that I should at least have a bit of general knowledge about, but friends I’m here to tell you that I just don’t. Maybe it’s simply news overload. Maybe it’s too many sources peddling a decidedly weak product. Whatever the cause, I’m far more interested in reading analysis of what happened a continent away 500 years ago than I am in lending my eyes and ears to what happened yesterday thirty miles from home.
I’m sure once the midterm election gets a little closer or the case against the former host of The Celebrity Apprentice ever gets a bit of traction, I’ll tune back in – or at least gin up a modicum of interest. For the immediate future, if it’s not coming through BBC, The Times, or one of the news aggregators I glance at in the morning, I’m going to be ok not paying attention.
If something legitimately important happens, I’m sure it will break through the static. Until then, I’ll be perfectly content studying the past rather than being thoroughly agitated by the present.
1. New and improved. Last week the powers that be implemented a new procedure that was aimed at speeding up the time it takes to get people through the front gate. As far as I can tell all it’s succeeded at doing is creating a cluster fuck of the traffic pattern and made the wait time even longer. Forty years of experience tells me that “new and improved” rarely is… and mostly exists because someone needed a big box checked off on their annual performance appraisal.
2. I’m not particularly chatty at the best of times. When I have Post It notes stacked up like cordwood and a ten page handwritten list of shit to do, I’m even less inclined to want to chat about, well, anything, really. Sorry if the blank look on my face while you’re talking to be about a radom sportsball team I have no interest in at the best of times seems rude, but I have a limited amount of bandwidth. I’d really like to use it to make sure as many of the bits of paper on my desk are on someone else’s desk before the close of business. Unless what you’re telling me is something that’s going to make my life easier, it’s best for both of us if you bugger directly off until I’ve dug out from under the clusterfuck of the day, week, or month.
3. Maryland E-Z Pass. Let’s forget for a moment that until recently tolls at roads and bridges in Maryland were sold to the public as something that would be dropped “as soon as the cost of construction was paid off.” E-Z Pass is one of the ways that many states, including Maryland, have offered up to make their ongoing extortion backed by the full authority and power of the government less obvious to the average citizen… and I only say less obvious because the other option is handing over a fistful of physical cash money every time you drive through a toll plaza. If the state is going to continue to extort money from its citizens for things that have been long paid for and depreciated, it feels like the least they could do is make sure the back office is keeping the books right and not generating a daily email threatening to cut off your account for having a low balance when a quick look at the customer facing website shows there is very clearly both money in the account and a valid credit card from which to siphon more money as needed.
1. Three things at once. At several points during the day I found myself trying to do three things at once – something on the right screen, something, on the left screen, and something on a paper copy between the two. Technically it might have even been four things if you count attempting to vaguely pay attention to the conversations swirling around the room or to the occasional person asking me a direct question. I won’t testify to the quality of any of the things I did, but I’m quite certain none of them were getting the kind of attention they probably should have received. My powers of multi-tasking are just fine as long as no one is expecting any level of attention to detail.
2. Roadwork at rush hour. Seriously, there’s nothing you can do to that goddamned overhead sign at 4pm on a Thursday that couldn’t have been done at a time when people were less apt to need to use the road. One might be forgiven for speculating that the State Highway Administration didn’t put a lick of academic rigor into their planning process.
3a. Information. Ok, look. My general hatred of the 21st century is public knowledge, but it does have a single redeeming quality – the availaity it original source information which one could use form imreasonably informed opinions. So please, before you fake news this or impeach that can you please take a few minutes and read the source documents. They might just be more informative that the interpretation you’re getting processed through your favored news outlet.
3b. Impeachment. It’s not a synonym for removal from office no matter how many news sites use it that way. Read the Constitution. It’s the damned owners manual. When it comes down to a fist fight between the political branches of the government, knowing what the words mean would serve us all well.
1. Joy theft. If I’m bluntly honest, I’ll tell you that I spend all day at work wanting to get home and lose myself in a book. By the time I’m home, dinner is made and cleaned up, and I’ve tended the creatures who share my roof, I’m so bleary eyed and tired that getting through a paragraph without my mind wandering is hard. Three nights out of five I can’t seem to focus on the words long enough for it to even be enjoyable. It’s just one more way that paying bills and being responsible conspire to suck all the real joy out of life.
2. Signals over the air. All I want to do in the few minutes between when I pull into the parking lot and when I have to be at my desk is get my morning Twitter update and find some funny, funny memes. Apparently that is too much to ask because for the last two weeks the parking lot has been a large dead zone. I don’t know if it’s my phone, Verizon, or just the Department of the Army trying to suck even a brief flicker of fun out of the surrounding air, but for whatever reason there’s nothing doing on my phone for those ten or fifteen minutes. If you think a few minutes of boredom and mindlessly staring out the windshield is enough to break my spirit and get me to my desk a few minutes earlier than I have to be there, well, it’s like you don’t know me at all.
3. Mushroom status. When grown in a farm setting, many mushrooms are simply left alone in a dark room and fed a steady diet of shit. I’m sure it happens in every organization of more than one person, but this great green machine of ours seems to have honed leaving people out of the loop to a fine art. It’s always exciting to come to the office and find an email from someone working in another organization letting you know that “your boss from high on Olympus said ‘X’ is going to happen.” It’s when you, as the person nominally responsible for “X,” have the exciting opportunity to let that individual know that no one in your own organization has bothered to tell you a fucking thing and thank them for the heads up before launching out on a paper chase to sus out how much time you may or may not have wasted depending on the veracity of your informant’s information.
I don’t usually post on Fridays because they tend to be the black hole of blogging. No matter how interesting a post you have, no one is going to see it anyway so it’s generally better to hold it for the next week.
Today is one of those rare exceptions to the rule simply because this is the 5 year anniversary of my transition to WordPress and the introduction of jeffreytharp.com. Big milestone here. It’s the rare bird indeed that manages to hold my attention through 1,826 days, 37,628 views, and 500 comments.
Thanks to everyone who’s been around since the beginning. Welcome to those who are just joining us. I like to think I’m still getting warmed up and finding my stride in the digital world… so we’ll just have to see how thinks look in another five years.
1. Customer service. On Tuesday morning, I drove an hour towards Baltimore expecting to transact a not insignificant amount of business with a well reviewed small local retailer. I originally planned to go in on Monday, but noted on their website that they were closed Sundays and Mondays. No harm no foul. Of course their site didn’t make any mention of the fact that they were also going to be closed on Tuesday this week. So I wasted two hours and burned half a tank of gas driving around north eastern Maryland on Tuesday for no apparent reason. As much as I’ll be the first to tell you that keeping up with a website is a pain in the ass, it seems to me if you’re going to bother to have one, it’s probably worth keeping the information up to date. Otherwise, as in this case, you’ve thoroughly annoyed a cash customer before they even walk through the door. I’ll probably still do business with this outfit because they’ve been recommended to me so highly, but it wouldn’t take much in the way of less than excellent service at this point to send me down the road to the next closest competitor.
2. Email. If anyone is wondering how I spent my first day at work after almost two weeks off, it was largely dedicated to reading, responding to, filing, or deleting 127 emails that rolled in over the Christmas-to-New-Years window. That’s not an exceptionally heavy load – it would have been far worse if I had taken off two weeks in say the middle of the spring. Look, I think it’s cute that there were a few people out there trying to get something done over the last two weeks, but since I wasn’t one of them, it’s going to take me a day or two to get back up to speed. Especially since I wasn’t exactly spending a lot of time pondering what important bit of email I was missing while I was away. Trust me when I tell you that sending me a follow up email the day I get back isn’t going to improve the response you’ll get. In fact it’s just going to make the process work more slowly for both of us. Now that I’m back in the saddle, it’s safe to assume I’ll work your issue in whatever priority it’s given by those elevated to positions higher than mine. In the meantime, have a cookie and get off my ass.
3. Attention span. I don’t know if it’s me or my surroundings, but lately my attention span feels like it’s all of about 37 seconds. That’s great for some things, I suppose, but I’d have a hard time listing what any of those might be. For purposes of reading, writing, or really trying to get anything done with any semblance of speed, it’s really kind of a hassle. I’d hoped that the new year would bring some kind of renewed focus. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like 2013: Part Two in that regard. As always, I’ll muddle through until the glitch works itself out.
I’m hopelessly devoted to the dogs. It’s safe to say that there are human children in Ceciltucky who are more poorly cared for then these two fur balls. Even so, it would occasionally be nice to take a step backwards without needing to check my six. I only bring it up because Maggie has been exceptionally needy this afternoon. And by needy, I mean attached to my hip even more than usual. That’s not an exaggeration. Every time I move, she adjusts so that some part of her is in direct contact with me. It’s sweet, but more than a bit inconvenient.
Winston, bless my stoic descendent of British fighting dogs, is mostly happy just to lay in front of the couch protecting his marrow bone and casting an occasional look around the room to make sure everyone is still there. George, being a tortoise, could care less. At the moment, he’s under his heat lamp looking very much like a round, shiny rock. It’s for the best. I’m not sure I could manage with three that need undivided attention.
This post would be longer, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is to type anything coherent with one hand while the other is occupied with playing tug and dispensing ear scratches…
So if you ever find yourself needed a couple of dozen new friends, I highly recommend throwing a 6 month old bulldog in the truck and taking him to Petsmart. It’s like people come out of the frigging woodwork to come over and check him out. Being the ham that he is, Winston of course enjoyed every minute of it… racks of toys, a nice cool floor to lay on, and lots of attention. Life doesn’t get any better, right?