What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The confidence of youth. I’m not saying that I don’t still have a ragingly high level of confidence in my own abilities, but that confidence has been tempered with the experience of so many things that should be simple to do becoming a giant triple-stacked shit sandwich right in my hands. Occasionally it’s because of something I either did or failed to do, but more often it’s because of outside influences over which I have little or no control. Occasionally now I see a young project leader, eyes bright with possibilities, charge through a meeting as if nothing could possibly go wrong. I chuckle to myself, but I also feel a little bit sorry for him because I already know what the next act looks like. Experience is a harsh teacher and while those occasional flops have made me better over time, every now and then I miss the swaggering confidence of youth and a time when I was slightly less cynical about everything.

2. Things beyond my control. Believe it or not, I don’t think of myself as being much of a control freak. Most of life is pure reaction to those things we don’t foresee or exert any control over. While willing to accept that I can’t possibly control for and plan against every conceivable circumstance, I do like to imagine that I can bring some semblance of order to my little section of a chaotic world. I’m also enough of a realist to know that order begins to break down just as soon as it’s established and keeping a veneer of control in life takes all manner of effort on a pretty consistent basis. Knowing that there are a multitude of things beyond my control and being willing to accept those things just now is feeling like more of a tall order than usual. Maybe I need to sign up for some kind of master class in Zen and the fine art of acceptance.

3. Not being surprised. I’m a bit befuddled that anyone is somehow surprised that there’s a set of rules for the wealthy and powerful and another for the rest of us. It hardly seems like news that a long time politician “somehow” managed to get away with actions that would cause the average employee to lose their job, be barred from future employment, and possibly go to prison. While I’m certainly as outraged as anyone at the lies, deceit, and in my opinion outright criminal behavior foisted upon the public by a high profile politician, I can’t for a moment say that I’m surprised that the official consequence of those behaviors is absolutely nothing. If this is the kind of thing that surprises you, there’s a fair chance you’re just not paying close enough attention to the world.

Too close for comfort…

As the shitshow that is the 2016 presidential election swings through Indiana, I’m very aware that the major party choices are in all likelihood coming down to either someone I will always think of as an unindicted felon who I could never trust or a professional flimflam artist who I could never respect. I’ve followed politics for my entire adult life and I honestly have no idea what to make of or do with these options. The idea that either of them is a fit successor to the seat vacated by His Excellency George Washington is nothing short of incomprehensible.

I usually try reminding myself that the nature of the body politic is elastic and ever changing, that through it all the Republic endures. Given the increasing rate at which the two parties and wide cross-sections of the populace are polarizing and the ever widening chasm between them, even the idea of endurance begins to feel like it might be too much of a stretch.

As I’ve noted on more than one occasion, being in reliable blue Maryland, my vote for the top of the ballot carries very little meaning in the shifting fortunes of presidential politics. Mercifully there are still down ballot races where it will have a prayer of moving the bubble ever so slightly. Even knowing that I keep coming back to the idea that in November we’re going to elect one of these creatures as the next Commander-in-Chief. Seeing either one of the douchcanoes at the top of my rating chain, even if it is eleven layers removed, places them far too close for comfort.

Destined for disappointment…

Three hours. That’s the time I spent after lunch this afternoon flailing around wildly trying to figure out why my “corporate” email isn’t working. Through the good graces of an unofficial help desk POC, we seem to have narrowed it down to a problem physically contained on my computer rather than with the servers or the network. I’m not entirely sure that makes me feel better, especially since the first order of business tomorrow will be rehashing the story with the official help desk in the vain hope of getting resolution.

I always have such high hopes for technology – like it will work as it’s supposed to with a minimum of trouble. Like the high hopes I occasionally have for people, that dream seems destined for disappointment. Except I know that’s not entirely true. We bog down our computers with so much security bloatware that I’m amazed they can do anything at all. Intellectually I understand that’s a necessary evil of the age, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want my work tech to perform with any less rapidity than my gmail account and home computer.

Sadly, unlike a certain major party presidential candidate, I’ve opted not to run my office through my home computer. The price I’ve had to pay in effectiveness and efficiency is at least marginally compensated by not ending up in federal prison. The high and the mighty don’t usually end up in as guests of the government at Danbury, but you can best believe I sure as hell would.

The long cycle…

In my wildest ideations I can’t fathom a situation in which I would ever willingly vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. Secretary Clinton has a fine resume, a solid education, and years of experience operating inside the beltway in both the executive and legislative branches. On policy issues, though – starting all the way back in 1993 with the Democratic Party’s first run at nationalized healthcare and running all the way through her tenure as Secretary of State and her “What difference does it make” moment – we have deep, abiding, and fundamental disagreements about the scope, task, and purpose of government.

Could and should a woman be president? Sure. For most gigs I don’t think knowledge, skills, and abilities are based on genitalia. The idea of a woman in the top job doesn’t cause me any consternation. The idea of this particular person in the top job, however, causes no end to my angst…

In the interest of full disclosure I should admit it might be fun to watch Bill figure out how to be First Lady and the antics he’ll be able to get up to when he’s not also occupied with trying to run the free world. Bill Clinton in the White House with time on his hands feels like something that could be deeply entertaining.

In any case, my only prediction at this stage of the game is that we’re all in for a very, very long election cycle.

Email…

Without going into the politics of it all, let me just say that if I, as a low level functionary in the great machine, decided to start conducting all of my day-to-day official work using the email server associated with jeffreytharp.com, I may or may not last out the week before someone at echelons higher than reality noticed and took one of the following actions: 1) terminated me with prejudice for violating security protocols and network standards; 2) Disciplined me to within an inch of my life ensuring that my career was effectively, if not officially, at an end; or 3) Turned me over to the local constabulary for prosecution. The likely outcome is some combination of the three.

The chances of my ever being named Secretary of Anything is precisely the same as the chances of my sprouting wings from my back and flying down to South America for the weekend. Still, with all that said I like to think if I were nominated and confirmed for such an august position within the government, I’d find some way to work within the system and still get my email set up exactly the way I like it.

In the rank and file, there are few things more demoralizing than seeing the great and the good blatantly walking around the rules they expect the rest of us to operate under. Even if it weren’t demoralizing it would cost you any shred of credibility you might have ever had in my eyes… and when it comes to working politicians, there’s precious little of that in the bank to begin with.

A kind of morality play…

THE SITUATION: You are in Miami, Florida. There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are photo-journalist working for a major newspaper, caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless. You’re trying to shoot career-making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water.

THE TEST: Suddenly you see a woman in the water. She is fighting for her life, trying not to be taken down with the debris. You move closer and she looks familiar.

You suddenly realize it’s Hillary Clinton! At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take her under forever.

You have two options:

1) You can save the life of Hillary Clinton, or…
2) You can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world’s most powerful women.

THE QUESTION: “Would you select high contrast color film, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?”