What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Inefficiency. Look, I’m delighted that Big Pharma is reimbursing me 93% of my out of pocket costs for the meds that one of the smart docs from Hopkins tells me will contribute to being able to continue to living better through chemistry. I’d be even more appreciative if their reimbursement scheme allowed for ordering more than a 30-day supply of the stuff at a time. Everything else rolls in as a 3-month supply that’s simple enough to refill once a quarter except this one little pill. It feels like I’m online getting that one refilled or coordinating the refund about every seven days. If you’re going to spend the money either way you could save us both processing time and effort by doing it four times a year instead of 12.

2. Single points of failure. The world is full of people who want to gather all decision making and power unto themselves. I’ve never understood that particular logic for several reasons. First, the ones who seem to be drawn to absolute power are generally the last ones who should be engaged in decision making. Second, there’s nothing more ridiculous than a few dozen people standing around knowing what needs done but being paralyzed for lack of having someone explicitly telling them to do it.

3. Consistency in the space program. I really wish we lived in a country that had consistent and achievable, manned and unmanned space exploration goals. I want NASA to be above politics and be maybe the one instrument of government that is the best reflection of ourselves. I want to see big rockets with the stars and stripes plastered to the side hurtling American astronauts back to the moon and then getting their ass to Mars. To think that’s not the next logical step in exploration is nonsensical and flies in the face of humanity’s eternal struggle to expand into the unknown. Other people will tell you this should be way down on the list of priorities, but those people are wrong and should be quiet.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Surprises. I will never in my life understand why anyone likes being surprised. In my experience being caught off guard, having a bombshell dropped in your lap, getting a wake-up call, or enduring a rude awakening are all fundamentally bad things. It is, sadly, impossible for any one person to know all the things and to be prepared for all the eventualities. Even so, that doesn’t mean we have to like getting blindsided even in the exceedingly rare case where it’s a “good” surprise.

2. Decisions. Look, if you’re not going to “empower” me to be a decision maker, the very least I should be able to expect is that someone up the line will actually be making decisions in something approaching a timely manner. Sure, some questions are difficult and need great thought and discussion, but mostly are run of the mill and answerable as part of a simple yes/no or this/that dyad. Getting the answer shouldn’t take weeks and slow every project down to the point where forward progress can only be measured in a lab environment by high-precision lasers.

3. Training. My employer has made a few stuttering baby steps towards eliminating some of the onerous annual training requirements that eat up time and net very little in the way of return on investment. However, they still insist of gaggling everyone up for far too many of these “valuable opportunities to learn.” After fifteen years on the job if I haven’t learned not to be a rapist or walk around making sexually suggestive comments to my coworkers, I’m not sure the 16th time around is going to generate that magical “aha moment” they seem to want. At least the box is checked for another year… and that’s what really matters.

36 hours late…

Yesterday I was nervous because the day didn’t go off the rails as I assumed it would. I could easily have saved the worry, because the day I expected yesterday arrived today, only 36 hours late.

There’s a truism in planning that says basically no one of any consequence pays attention more than 30 days before something is supposed to happen. Corollary to that truism is that by the time the gap closes to about two weeks, everyone suddenly cares and feels the need to be involved, but it’s also too late to change much of anything that’s not a trivial detail. Therefore you will spend an inordinate amount of time making changes that fundamentally don’t matter. If you spend too much time dwelling on it, I assure you you’ll go quite mad.

My only enemy now is the clock itself. Every hour that ticks past means more focus and more people wanting to put their thumbprint on something by making some random innocuous change. It’s the way of things. While the storm gathers, the winds rise, and the great and the good have their say, my only defense is in watching the hands of that clock slowly spool down to H-hour… because the moment it’s come and passed, everyone will be off and churning on the Next Big Thing and bloody well leave me in peace for a few days.

Bad decisions…

While I was in line at the bank on Saturday, I overheard a conversation. That’s not the kind of thing I usually do. Even if it were the kind of thing I’d usually do, I’d have wanted no part at all in this conversation. It was the sort of loud mouthed yammering that makes me wonder if people ever really stop and consider the words that come flying out of their gobs.

In the span of the five minutes that it took me to get from the back of the line to bing second to front, the women directly in front of me subjected me (and everyone, really) to her stream of consciousness thinking on all manner of topics. The best (or worst), were discussions of:

1) How wrong it was that the bank made her take out that “bad mortgage.” As if someone held a gun to her head while she signed.

2) How pissed she was that the guy she had been dating for six weeks wouldn’t sign the paperwork taking himself off of her checking account. Because adding someone you’ve known 30 days to your financial accounts always ends up being a good decision.

3) How happy she was that her new beau was only going to be in jail for six months so at least they’ll be together soon. By this point, I’ve stopped analyzing out of fear that my brain might overload and catch on fire.

It’s safe to say I now know more about this random woman in line at the bank than most of the people who have known me since childhood know about me. It’s an honor I neither sought out nor wanted.

The only common thread I was able to identify through the flow of her verbal diarrhea, was the simple fact that nearly all this individual’s problems could trace direct back to piss poor decision making. Basic life decisions don’t require a 180 point IQ, but they damned well require the application of a bit of common sense. I increasingly fear the supply of this commodity has been exhausted.

If I can offer any advice, it’s just this: Stop making shit decisions. You’ll be amazed how much life doesn’t suck if you just try to get out of your own way now and then.

Another post in which timely decision-making is discussed…

Letting decisions fester until the last possible moment is rarely a recipe for arriving at a well-considered answer. That may seem somewhat counterintuitive, because having more time to decide should allow someone to make the decision based on more perfect information. In my experience, that’s almost never actually the case. What really happens is that the decision is just put off and no actual thought is put into it until it’s the flaming bag of dog shit blistering the paint on your front porch. Put another way, the default setting is procrastination.

The real problem with waiting isn’t just that you leave a bunch of people sitting around with their thumbs up their asses while the pondering drags on for days or weeks. The problem is that in most cases decisions get delayed until it’s too late to apply any academic rigor and you just end up going off half-informed in whatever direction seems best at the time. Shooting from the hip with a scattergun is probably a fine strategy for defending your home from hopped up delinquents, but it rarely passes muster for decisions that require a little more fineness.

It’s not how I’d do things. In fact it’s precisely the opposite of how I run the 128 hours of my week for which I am the designated decision-maker. For the 40-hours a week wherein I have no decision-making authority whatsoever, though, that’s its own can of worms. The very best I can do is appraise those who do decide on the potential bad things that will result from waiting. After that all that’s left is a shrug and a muffled “told you so.”

On trying to like people…

Thanks to the Facebook “On This Day” feature I saw an early meme I shared on back in 2012 that read something like “I try to like people, but they’re all so fucking stupid.” I smiled, nodded, and thought “Yep, that’s still pretty much true.

On reflection, though, I realized that statement is getting less and less true. With every day that passes I find myself not Stupid.pngeven attempting to like people. It wasn’t like I started out making a big effort on that front anyway, but frankly my compassion and understanding reserve is all but worn out. Again, not that it was particularly deep to start out, but still.

I’m just sick to death of turning in nearly every direction and seeing people making incredibly stupid life choices. Look, I’m not saying everyone needs to be an Einstein. God knows I’m never going to sit at my desk and churn out a grand unifying theory of anything. I’m tired of playing off bad things that happen as fate or just bad luck when it so very clearly is a result of a piss-poor decision someone made a few steps back.

Every day I’m reminded of the late, great George Carlin who said, “‘Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” That stupider half is out there living among us while we live with the consequences of their actions and decisions. If that doesn’t keep you up nights or put you off people completely, I have no idea what will.

As for me, I’m done smiling and nodding. I’m done trying to like people. If I look in your eyes and can’t find a spark of anything in there keeping the lights on other than habit, I just don’t have the energy to even pretend. There are public libraries in just about every town in America. The internet has given us access to very nearly the sum total of all knowledge accumulated across the vast sweep of human history. We carry that shit around on our telephones. Information is too easy to access for people to walk around just being stupid.

I no longer have the energy required to try liking stupid people. Instead of faking it from here on out, my official policy will be to glare at them and walk away.

Who to blame or, Bad intentions…

I have a very simple rule here at Fortress Jeff: When bad things happen as a result of piss poor decision making, the buck stops with me. I get the credit for the good stuff so it’s only fair that I take the blame when my decisions go awry.

When I was 20 years old and walked into the cave-like bar in the basement of the Hotel Gunter, I knew damned well and good I was under the legal drinking age. I also knew they’d serve me. When the local constabulary arrived asking to see everyone’s papers, I wasn’t the victim of a totalitarian police state. I was the victim of being a stupid 20 year old making my own bad decisions.

Four years later, when my beloved Jeep was broken into. The slash and grab cost me a few hundred dollars of CDs and an ashtray full of change. Yes, I blame the criminal for breaking into a locked vehicle, but I share the burden of blame because I left an easy target sitting in plain sight. If there hadn’t been something of obvious value in clear view I wonder if he’d have passed on to the next target of opportunity.

If nothing else, social media has shown me that we live in a world where people think we should just all love one another and there are butterflies and peppermint sticks at every turn. The reality is that we live in a world where bad things happen and where there are natural consequences that accompany every action. When you play stupid games, there’s a strong probability that you will win stupid prizes. No amount of wishing it different will change that.

I’m not here to shame any victims or absolve the fault of any criminals, but I am here to say that we’re all responsible for our own behaviors and actions. Bad things happen to good people all the time. The very best thing we can do as individuals is to understand the important relationship between action and consequence and the do our best to mitigate our personal risk factors. One awfully easy way of reducing the number of bad things that could happen to you is to give it some thought before you walk down a dark alley alone, or leave your computer laying on the back seat of your car, or drink until you’re blind drunk. People with bad intentions are out there already and they may do horrible things anyway, but it damned well doesn’t mean we should make ourselves an easy mark because we think we’ll be untouched by other people’s bad decisions and immune to the consequences of our own.