For the last three months I haven’t been able to open some encrypted email. Day to day it’s not much of a problem, but once every two weeks or so part of my job really demands that I be able to see what’s lurking inside those emails.
I started by putting in a help ticket with my employer’s vaunted Enterprise Service Desk. They fiddled with it for a week and finally decided it was something that needed handled locally, so I was referred over to their branch here in beautify northeastern Maryland. More days passed. Two hours on the phone with them later, they decided that the answer needed to be ever more local… and yet more days slipped away.
My local support worked at it for another two hours. More days trickled by with nothing happening. I raise the issue again. My boss raises the issue. Tech support and I play phone tag for a week. Then there was a holiday. And here we are three months later and I still can’t open the damned email and have to hope someone else who has access to that mailbox is around when I need to either read or send something encrypted.
I raised the issue again today with our local support and ended up with people pointing in three different directions about who really needs to be working this issue.
Based on that feedback, the utter lack of progress made in three months, and my almost eighteen years of experience as a professional bureaucrat, I have now determined that I clearly don’t require access to these emails. If no one else is concerned with doing their job, I don’t suppose I need to be either. If Uncle wants me to have access, I suppose he’ll just have to miracle the right certificates onto my laptop because I’m well and truly done trying to get it done myself.
Reading for comprehension. Before you ask if I can provide the dial in number, perhaps you should read all the way to the bottom of the 4 bullet point email I just sent you. I’m not saying I always include every scrap of information someone might need in an email. Sometimes things get left out. But when I know the information you seek is one of the items I purposely put in a prominent place for all to see, it’s like you’re trying to get on my last nerve. I’m increasingly convinced the only reason meetings ever really need to happen is because people can’t be relied on to read for comprehension.
False surprise. You’re well into your 50s. You’ve spent 30+ years in Uncle’s service. Don’t feign surprise when things you want to try to get done two weeks before the end of the year can’t be done because 75% of the people who do the work, myself included, have no intention of being around between Christmas and New Years. It happens every year like clockwork. It’s regular as the tide. Please, for the love of little newborn baby Jesus, don’t suddenly pretend concern that a thing can’t be delivered a mere handful of hours before everyone but a skeleton crew goes away for a couple of weeks. This is especially true when you were given the opportunity to work the fix four months ago but opted to drive ahead anyway. It just embarrassed both of us.
Medical science. The good news is that my A1C is now actually too low and as a result the doc is taking me off one of the meds I’ve been on for the last two years. That, of course, was accompanied by the bad news that my cholesterol has finally snuck into the “troublesome” range so I’ll be starting on a new pill for that… along with regular blood work to make sure the combination of it all isn’t ripping my liver to shreds in the process of keeping the rest of me alive.
New reports suggest that Ivanka Trump used a personal email address to conduct official business. If true, those reports are a problem for her and for the administration.
So here I am, a card carrying Republican, in defiance of what social media says I’m supposed to say, arguing that the allegations should be investigated. Hand the records over to the FBI and allow them to do their job. I expect the House of Representatives, under Democratic control in the next session, will also want to hold their own investigation. That’s fine. Conducting such inquiries is a prerogative of the House.
That said, I expect Republicans to observe the same standards that they did in their investigation of Secretary Clinton in demanding a through search of all pertinent files. Likewise, I expect House Democrats to largely observe that sending emails outside official government platforms “isn’t really that big a deal.” If Republicans pass the buck, they’re negligent. If Democrats rail that personal email is now suddenly important, they’re hypocrites.
Of course there are fine points of detail that the media doesn’t bother with – things like classification level of the email, privately owned server housing classified material, whether tens of thousands of emails were destroyed before they could be reviewed by the investigators, etc. They’re perhaps esoteric details, but they matter in the course of deciding if something is a legitimate “big deal” or if it’s Washington-issued “nothing burger.”
1. “Blood in the street”. The first financial news I consciously remember hearing was during the great bull run of the 1980s. In January 1987 the Dow cracked 2000 for the first time. I was eight years old and heard the news that day in my grandparent’s living room. Today, 30+ years later, after a two plunge, the Dow stands at 25,052.83. I’m not a financial expert by any stretch. I’m not a stock picker. I pay a limited about of attention to broad trends because I do have a vested interest in being able to retire at some point in the middle-ranged future. What I’ve learned from keeping an occasional eye on these trends over the last 20-years of having a small dog in the fight, is just this: prices go up, prices go down, prices go up again. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Yes, I hate seeing account balances bleeding away as much as anyone, but the blood in the streets reporting from major news outlets feels completely overblown.
2. “California is underrepresented.” I’ve seen it a few times now – the “infographic” that shows California has only 2 senators while the 7 least populous states in the west have 14. The conclusion is that Californians, therefore, are underrepresented. They conveniently fail to mention that the same seven states are represented by only 13 representatives in the House while California weighs in with 53 members of that august body. Such posts, of course, neglect to discuss the intricate system of checks and balances designed into the Constitution – where the House of Representatives was designed as the direct representatives of the people and senators were elected by the state legislatures for purposes of representing individual state interests within the federal framework. You could almost be forgiven for believing that the United States was a democracy and not a federal republic. After all we so regularly and incorrectly use the words republic and democracy interchangeably. It’s safe to say that the founders knew a little something about mob rule and its dangers to good order and civil society. The whole massive machinery of federal government was designed, in part, to ensure that radical change couldn’t be rolled out across the country at the whim of the mob. Rest assured I’ll be at least one consistent vote against dismantling any such bulwark restraining the passions of a would-be mobocracy.
3. Reply All. Sometimes an email gets out by accident, launched across the ether using a distribution list that sweeps up all people, everywhere regardless of whether they need the information contained in the message or not. Here’s a helpful tip from your kindly Uncle Jeff: If you receive an email message via distribution that’s obviously not meant for you, you can literally just delete it and the offending email goes away. Or you and 27 of your closest friends can “reply all,” ask to be removed from the offending distribution, and be revealed as the enormous twatwaffles that you are. I mean I know from personal experience that people barely read the email that’s addressed to them for action. Why in seven hells the reply all is the one they choose to engage with is just simply beyond the limits of human understanding.
1. Snap judgement. I’ve got a pretty good record of making snap judgements about people and situations. Occasionally, though, I’m proven utterly and unequivocally wrong. Just occasionally people really do surprise me. That seeds chaos and discontent in my universe and really does annoy me to no end.
2. Email. Actual it’s the lack of email that’s the problem. If we’re going to pretend to be an organization that lives and dies by electronic communication, keeping this most basic of those tools available feels like a reasonable place to start before we dive in and try to tackle the more complex stuff. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a guy sitting here because the damned email isn’t working.
3. Anyone who asks why I like animals so much and people so little. Seriously with that question? Have you met animals? They’re awesome. Sure, some of them will kill you if given half a chance, but on the whole they’re endearing and some of them are downright adorable. They can be expected to go about their lives doing basic animal things. On the other hand, have you met people? Some of them will kill you given half a chance too, but they have far fewer of the animal’s redeeming qualities and are, as a group, far less adorable. Unlike the other members of the animal kingdom, a large percentage of people can be expected to wander through their lives oblivious to the world around them and behaving in as obnoxious manner as possible. Given the choice, I don’t see how it’s even a contest.
If you work in a giant bureaucracy for any amount of time at all, sooner rather than later you’re going to receive a mass email blasted out to the entire workforce with information that is of dubious value to more that five or six people. When that happens, what I’m going to need you to do is resist the temptation to click that ever-so tempting reply-to-all button and blast back a request to be removed from the distribution. You don’t want to be that guy.
You don’t want to be that guy because as annoying as getting one over the world email is, getting the second one within ten seconds is what really triggers the most unfortunately string of events. It’s this second email that gives people permission to respond themselves demanding to be removed from this mythical distribution list. Before you know it, because you couldn’t keep your filthy booger picker off the reply all button, there are dozens or hundreds of response generated that we all then have to delete.
Whatever smartass comment you’ve included in the 124th response to this problematic email just isn’t funny. In fact it should be a completely valid reason for your colleagues to hunt you down and beat you bloody with a three-hole punch.
Please. I’m begging you with tears in my eyes, don’t reply all unless you personally know everyone on the reply line and honestly believe you have something of merit to add to the conversation. If those conditions aren’t met, just operate from the assumption that what you’re about to send is spam at best and your own little denial of service attack at worst.
On the other hand, it lets me know that 124 people I have no need to ever talk to in the future. Their rapidity to reply all and get their two cents in tells me everything I need to know about them as human beings.
I’ve been using WordPress as my blog platform since 2010. It’s been a good, feature-rich home that is about as straightforward to use as anyone could reasonably expect. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but overall it’s the kind of happy technology that just works and lets itself fade into the background so you can focus on content instead of the nuts and bolts of how the website itself functions. I’m just not geek enough anymore to be particularly interested in that side of running things.
The last couple of weeks, though, I’ve found myself inundated by an unexpected and unprecedented amount of spam message traffic making its way past the WordPress filters. Each and every post on jeffreytharp.com seems to generated a responding barrage of dozens of likes and follows from click bait sites filled with brilliant marketing strategies and tips for monetizing your page. For the purposes of my writing here, each and every one of them is both pointless and annoying – spam messages in their most pure form.
Until now, the filters provided by WordPress were sufficient to hold this onslaught of wasted electrons at bay. Since that is true no longer, I’m trying to manually enforce some kind of discipline on what makes it through to my inbox. That being the case, I’ve had to impose rather draconian restrictions on what notifications I’m receiving from WordPress. The free and easy days of letting everything flow through to my inbox and sorting through one or two messages a day seem to be over.
So look, if you are trying to reach me through the blog for some reason, chances are I haven’t seen your message. Feel free to leave a comment, though, because for the moment I am seeing those notifications without undue amounts of spam getting in the way. It feels like there should be a better way to manage this sort of thing but it’s the best I was able to implement on short notice. Frankly, though, any option that stops the flow of this junk to my inbox is more than welcome so I don’t see any major changes in the foreseeable future.
1. Tax reform. This country needs real reform of the tax code. Whether you fall into the “tax the rich in oblivion” camp or find yourself in the “Why the hell do 50% of Americans not pay a penny of income tax” team, the need for reform is the one thing we all seem to have in common. The terms of the current Republican tax plan are still largely shrouded in secrecy, but I’ve already seen two items kicked around that will be will mean I can’t support it as long as they’re in play. I’ll be writing my representative this weekend to let him know that the home mortgage deduction and state/local tax deduction are non-negotiable points for me. Those are two big pots of available cash and I know how tempting that must be for the average politician to put their filthy hands all over… but still, going after two of the most popular deductions around feels like just about the most tone deaf way to get the process started.
2. Temptation. There was beer at work today. Sort of. It was the start of this year’s Oktoberfest celebration – an event that my employer has a tremendous amount of love for, which I can only assume comes from the number of employees who have spent some part of their career in Germany since 1945. Look, if the option is to go sit around listening to oom-pah bands and knocking back cold beer or stay at my desk and pretend to be interested in email, well, there’s not really much of a competition. The problem comes when you’re a few drinks in and everyone is starting to get a little lubricated and entertaining. That’s when the little voice in my head trips an alarm to remind me that it’s probably time to go before I say something that’s both funny and true, but wholly unprofessional. The real temptation, though, was to stick around just out of curiosity to see what offensive or inappropriate sound bite might come flying out of my pie hole.
3. Jared Kushner. Having spent a good portion of 2016 being hot and bothered by Secretary Clinton and her email server, it’s only fair that I call out Jared Kushner in his capacity as Senior Advisor to the President. His use of private email to conduct official business should be investigated by Congress. His files and records should be subpoenaed. If there is evidence indicating he has broken the law, he should be charged criminally and tried. While I’m on the subject, I’ll remind those on the left screaming for Kushner’s head, that there is a world of difference between official email and classified message traffic. That being said, it’s apparently impossible to keep either one on non-government servers. Asshats.
If you stick around any place long enough you’ll find that you’re often able to predict trouble spots in most of your standard and repetitive procedures. The place where I didn’t expect it to show up this week was in finding myself personally responsible for one of the 60 people who just didn’t bother to show up as scheduled.
It turns out that even though 59 other people received the voluminous email messages addressed to “Dear Random Major Event Attendees”, and showed up as directed, email is “not a sufficient way to communicate.” The other, simpler, possibility is that someone just didn’t bother to read and follow the directions that got, literally, every other person on the list to the right place at the right time.
Look, I don’t mind taking my lumps when I well and truly fuck something up. By all means, lay it on. However, when the fault lies plainly on the 1 in 60 that failed to comply, well, I don’t know what to tell you… Maybe plus up the budget a bit so we can hire a full time invitation engraver?
If you’re wondering what the deal is with that word up there in the title line, it represents the total number of emails I received today. Being a careful shepherd of my limited supply of vacation days, I realized that burning one off on the Monday before Independence Day was likely to be a tragic waste of resources. I thought this for two reasons 1) I was scheduled to work from home today anyway and 2) Virtually no one who can avoid it is going to come in to work on a single day between a weekend and a federal holiday.
My assessment of the situation proved to be entirely accurate although just how dead it proved to be was well beyond my expectations. Neither of the messages I received called for immediate action… and in fact one of them was just thanking me for providing some information requested last week.
I don’t have a years long study to back up this supposition, but I’d be willing to stake my questionable reputation on the fact that Uncle Sam could save a shit ton of money by just closing up shop on these oddball occasions that pin a work day between two days off. Then again, if Sam went around doing things that made sense on a regular basis, I’m not sure I’d even recognize the place. I suppose we’ll just carry on then.