Back in the world…

I know plenty of people have been far more risk tolerant than I’ve been over the last year. Some have been far less risk tolerant than me. I hope, as usual, I managed to fall somewhere in the middle of the curve – not too indifferent, but not too paranoid. 

Even when the Great Plague started, I didn’t fully sequester myself. I managed to complete regular trips out for groceries, carryout, and whatever I couldn’t live without from Lowe’s. I largely made sure to do those things at times other people would consider “inconvenient.” As often as not, I had entire stores almost completely to myself. 

In making my first trip back into the broader world this weekend, I’m not sure what I was expecting beyond it feeling somehow “different.”

As it turns out, the world is still as full of people as it was in the Before Time… and that makes everything just awful. 

I managed to lose the crowd, or most of it, while I was wandering the stacks peering at books, but as soon as I popped out the end of a row, there they were, slack jawed and milling around aimlessly in the aisles, in the parking lots, and on the roads.

I’ve heard it said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I can tell you now in complete sincerity, the absence of large groups of people in my daily, weekly, and monthly routine has not made me any more fond of them in any way. If anything, the absence of people has had the exact opposite effect on me. 

As the world schlepps on towards returning to “normal,” I’ll be over here coming up with new and creative ways to keep on avoiding the other returnees.  

It’s been two weeks…

So, it’s been two weeks since gleefully getting my second jab in hopes that my body would learn to treat COVID like a mild annoyance rather than a deadly virus. It’s been two weeks since my Saturday of discontent when three layers of wool wasn’t enough to make me feel warm. It’s been two lingering weeks waiting for what the virologists say is the time it takes for a body to build up full immunity.

Not being a virologist myself, I’m in a position of largely just needing to trust what they say is true, which is fine since it’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the Great Plague. I mean in a contest between believing politicians and believing people who have spent their entire careers working in a particular, demanding field of study that calls for them to be, by definition, highly educated, I’m not sure why anyone would default to believing politicians.

The number of new infections is now heading back up – utterly predictable when the politicians used the decline following the winter surge to make a few long steps towards “business as usual.” If I had to guess, it looks like the trend will settle somewhere above what we adorably considered the “peak” back during the second wave. Hardly a good news story, but whatever. People, or a large portion of them, seem to have lost interest and are ready to play the odds.

In the absence of a test to confirm that my blood is swimming with antibodies, I suppose I’m playing the odds too, but it feels like I’m doing it with more reasonable justification and likelihood of success than if I were doing it purely “because I want to.”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a book buying binge of monumental proportions coming on… but there’s no part of me that regrets waiting for it to be legitimately safe for me to take on that project.

A wasted opportunity…

I’ve got no interest in being a “digital nomad.” I don’t want to work from a different far-flung location every month, schlepping my life around in a suitcase. I sampled that life enough when I was young, ambitious, and living in hotels to know that being home with the animals and all my stuff is really where it’s at. That I can do with almost no limitations thanks to the amount of technology being brought to bear to make the old school office a bit anachronistic.

In its ongoing coverage of the world in the Great Plague era, National Geographic asks, “Is this the end of the office?”

As much as I’d like to think the answer is an unreserved “yes,” I’ve been bureaucrating long enough to know better. When you hear comments like “I don’t know how anyone works from home” or “I don’t think anyone gets anything done from home,” or a more general “I hate it,” from those in a position to make decisions on whether work takes place from anywhere other than the belly of cubicle hell, well, it’s a pretty clear indicator of what the actual future will look like. Evidence to the contrary won’t, in my professional estimation, be a factor when such things are decided.

It’s a shame, really. This should have been an opportunity to overhaul the way we thing about and do our work – and a way to create a distributed workforce that doesn’t rely on a single point of failure (ex. a big concrete and steel building) to get the job done. Instead, at the earliest possible moment, we’re likely to roll the clock back, and pretend that everything must be just as it was during the before time.

I had hoped that I was settled in to the place where I was going to ride out the last third of my career, but of that means a return to being judged by physical presence rather than output, I’ll likely need to reconsider that thought. I’m not sure I’ll be able to content myself to a world that goes back to valuing asses in cubes as its key metric for success.

That thing I do…

I’ve never really liked the term “loner.” It has connotations of wild eyed Unibomber wearing rags and shitting in the woods that doesn’t feel fitting. That said, for most of my adult life I’ve had a natural inclination towards running a one man show. Relying on other people to get through the day to day basics always feels problematic to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is no matter how well intentioned others may be, you’re the only one who’s going to be with you 24/7.

From the time I was a kid, my natural instinct has always been to turn inwards when shit gets stupid and dig down into an inner wellspring of resolve. The worse the external force, the stronger my desire to hunker down becomes. It’s not so much turning ostrich and sticking my head in the sand as going tortoise, dropping my center of mass, and relying on strong personal armor to ride out the danger. It’s just one of the things I do to navigate the world.

That’s all a long way of saying I recognize that I’ve been doing a shitty job these last couple of months keeping up with people or getting back to them in anything like a timely manner. As they say, it’s not you, it’s me. The short term outlook calls for more of the same, though I’m expecting May Day 2020 to be a significant inflection point where after it’ll feel a bit less like me versus the universe.

Moving day…

I’ve been back in Maryland for just shy of eight years now. I find that incredibly hard to believe, but it’s beside the point as far as this little tale goes. The only reason I mention it is that as of today, just shy of eight years on, I’m now occupying the 9th separate cubicle I’ve been assigned to since arriving back.

When I think of the manpower that’s gone into not just physically rearranging the deck chairs but also time allocated to “strategizing” the move and selling each one of them as a value added proposition, all I can do is shake my head and wonder at how we’ve managed to win America’s independence, put down a rebellion, conquer a continent, deliver victory in two world wars, and stay in “business” over the last 200+ years. Surely this isn’t the way we actually do things. I know better, though. Of course it is. This is exactly how we do things. It’s situation normal.

Sigh. Yeah. It’s good to be back in the saddle.

Election night prognostication…

So if you will all indulge at least one more post about the election of 2016, with polls a few hours from closing here on the East Coast it’s time for a little prognostication from your kindly local proprietor. It was a busy day today and I didn’t have time to do much reading or casting entrails or reviewing exit polling data, but that’s not the kind of thing that would ever stop me from giving you my two cents about what I think is going to happen tonight. To put it another way, my opinion on this is going to be educated rather than purely informed.

With all that said, you’re probably wondering what the election results are going to look like. Here’s my best guess of where things will stand once the dust settles and the last votes are tabulated: Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States. The Republicans will maintain a razor slim majority in the US Senate (51-49) and the House of Representatives will continue to be Republican controlled by a small, but comfortable margin.

In the end I think what we’ll find is that we’ve spent billions of dollars on this election season and absolutely nothing of significance will change. Washington will still be gridlocked. There will be even fewer moderate voices on both sides and the interminable bickering will continue for 25 months until the first voices start “exploring” opportunities to run in the presidential election of 2020.

That’s my best guess on where we end up when this long election cycle reaches it’s agonizing end. We’ll all have a few less friends, we’ll be a little more jaded, and politics will continue as usual. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Like so many others in recent memory, this week could be a laundry list of annoyances from the great to the petty. As always, I tried to drill into the beating heart of the three that annoyed me most this week… but ask me again in five minutes and the list could have easily changed again.

1) Hiring freeze. One of the fun aspects about a hiring freeze is that although people go away and are not replaced, the things that they were doing while they were working never go away. They just get shifted around until they find someone who can do a half-assed job of getting them done. It’s the old standard philosophy of “doing more with less.” It’s a perfectly find concept when applied as a stopgap measure lasting for a relatively short duration. As a permanent part of the business model, it’s somewhat more problematic. At some point the system comes collapsing down under the weight of its own absurdity and the lords of creation have to accept one of four options: 1) Call in reinforcements; 2) Accept that sometimes they’ll just have to do fewer things with the reduced number of resources; 3) Fire everyone and hope a new crew can do it better; or 4) Continue to do everything as usual with a consequently lower level of quality. What you can’t do over the long term is keep taking on additional work while keeping up with business as usual.

2) 216 miles. Having driven or flown across most of the country at some point over the last ten years, I’ve never given much thought at to distance. It’s always just been ground to cover. Lately, though, I’ve been thoroughly, thoroughly annoyed by 216 miles. I guess perspective, and motivation, change everything.

3) The Pinterest-ing of Facebook. I like Facebook. Or I like the concept of Facebook. I’m not sure I’m a fan of how it’s evolving, but that’s another post. I like Facebook as a tool for delivering pithy updates, comic pictures of cats, and generally keeping up with friends and family. What I‘m not so much a fan of is how recently my newsfeed has been taken over by recipes, chain posts, and all manner of corporate ads. I can’t do anything about the ads and I’m not going to de-friend anyone, but you can bet your sweet ass I’m exerting extreme editorial control over the “Change What Updates You Get” function.