Fridays…

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think of an original post to cap off the week on a Friday night. With the archives now well and truly exhausted, though, I’m left with no choice.

What I’m thinking about doing, now that there’s a more than twelve year deep back catalog of posts, is to use Friday evenings to revisit some of the “best of” posts from the last 4,380+ days. Maybe this is the chance to trot some of the golden oldies out of the barn for a fresh look using something like an “on this date” format.

I’m giving it some thought – do I add fresh commentary, note where I’ve changed my mind and where I haven’t, try to provide some fresh insight? Yeah, I don’t know yet.

The thought of going on a deep dive expedition way back to 2006 is equal parts tempting and terrifying. I like to think that in the intervening years my writing style and substance has improved. Then again maybe it hasn’t. Honestly so much of that was written so long ago I’ve entirely forgotten it. I want to imagine that the Jeff who’s sitting here at the keyboard now is very much a kindred spirit to the one who wrote those early posts. Believe me, you don’t want me to delve too deeply into how much of my self-identity is tied up in being blissfully consistent.

So, I guess the only think I’ll say tonight is “we’ll see.” If next week around this time you find yourself reading something dated from 2006, don’t worry. You’re not caught in a time warp, it’ll just be me doing more excavation of the past in the never ending search for clicks.

On being defined by your junk…

As anyone who reads regularly will know by now, I’m employed by a large, mostly faceless bureaucracy. It’s an organization that seemingly runs on creating vast new (mandatory) training programs that suck up massive amounts of time without delivering much return on the investment. In my experience, it’s all just another box to be checked to satisfy some arcane requirement of law, regulation, or policy.

Coming soon to an auditorium near us is a new one hour feature focused on Mandatory Training on Big Faceless Bureaucracy Policy on Service of Transgender Persons. Look, I get that it’s the current trendy topic for those fighting the culture wars. There are whole offices in the bureaucracy dedicated to taking such things very, very seriously.

I think I’ve been clear and consistent in my message that I don’t personally care who you sleep with, what you wear, or even what restroom you use (as long as you conform to the gentleman’s agreement that urinals are a no talking zone). I don’t want to have a long, meaningful discussion about how you “self-identify.” Frankly I’m just not interested enough to spend any more than a passing moment thinking about it at all.

I was born in the late 1970s and got my raising in a small Appalachian coal town. I have no doubt that most of my foundational beliefs were built right there along the banks of George’s Creek. Saying that was a simpler time and place doesn’t do it justice. Despite those core beliefs, the ones I live by personally, I’ve never found myself one to believe that my way has to be the only way.

With that said, I’m still a little sad that I’m going to be a part of the last generation who remembers when two genders defined by your junk was enough for just about everyone. If things were still so simple, it would get me out of about 20 hours of mandatory training over the last half of my career… because at this point, minimizing the amount of time I have to spend checking boxes is kind of a career priority of mine.

The number two thousand…

The earliest post I’ve been able to track down showed up on June 1, 2006. There were some earlier efforts, I’m almost sure, but my own records only go back that far. If there are earlier posts out there somewhere, I’ve lost them to the electronic ether.

Nine years and 1,999 posts later we arrive at my 2,000th post. I’m not sure if that means I have too much to say, too much free time, or too much nascent desire for attention. A combination of the three is the most likely reason I’ve stuck with it this long. For whatever reasons, while other hobbies and interests have come and gone, the blog, in all its many forms has remained a consistent part of my life. At this point I’m not sure how I would self-identify without it.

It’s been tempting over the years to monetize the effort, to sell my services to other sites, or even to give it up completely, but obviously none of those ideas ever stuck. For these last 2,000 posts I’ve always been writing about whatever happened to be on my mind. It’s always been writing to sooth my own soul and to suit my own sensibilities.

Like it says up there in “About” at the top of the site:

Let’s get one thing straight from the beginning: I’m not a regular guy. I don’t spend all weekend watching sports and I think domestic beer, for the most part, sucks. I’m never going to discuss how much I can bench press or how big my engine is. What I will do is comment on those issues that strike my interest on any given day including but not limited to travel, politics, technology and life’s unavoidable interaction with stupid people. Some posts will be mundane others will be rants of a more epic variety. I strive to keep it entertaining, but in the end I’m writing for my own benefit, not for an audience. If you’re waiting for a big finish, there isn’t one. This is what it is.

Maybe that’ll change at some point in the future, but I suspect you’ll hear much the same thing in 2024 when we’re talking about the 4,000th post.

LinkedOut…

In an ongoing effort to un-muddle my digital footprint, I deleted my LinkedIn account over the weekend. I talked about doing it a year or two ago but didn’t get around to it. A spate of emails from the service this week drug it back onto my list of things to do. I wanted to like LinkedIn – and maybe if I worked in a universe that traded on creating a massive professional network I would have. But for what I do, and the scope of people I need to interact with, it just wasn’t doing much for me other than sending a dozen emails a week to my inbox. I don’t need that kind of help.

I have to think LinkedIn is so popular because it creates a benefit for people in a sales environment, or those interested in building their professional network, or those who have any kind of professional ambition left. Since I don’t fall into any of those categories it was just one more extraneous feed of information I wasn’t using.

The simple fact is I don’t really identify, even “professionally,” with my 9-5 self. If someone wants me in their network it should be as a sometimes writer, a blogger, an opinionated blowhard, a reader, and hopefully, in some small way, as a thinker. That other stuff, how I whore myself out to pay the bills, is entirely secondary to what I consider the “real” me.

It’s just the most recent bit of transition from a guy who long ago thought what he did for a living defined who he was to a man who’s trying to define himself in some other – if far less tangible – way. What that definition is, what it will become, remains to be seen.

Whatever the definition, I know with certainty that future self doesn’t require an account with LinkedIn.

Identity…

Far be it from me to tell anyone who they feel themselves to be on the inside, but it stands to reason if I go about telling everyone that I considered myself to be an African American woman, no one would buy it. That could lead me down into a long, painful discussion about perception, self, and identity, but I don’t want to go there.

The national offices of the NAACP were quick to point out over the weekend that there was no requirement for leaders in their organization to be black. That’s probably true. At the same time, it makes about as much sense as having someone who’s never owned a firearm in their life serving as president of the NRA. Sure, you could do it, but it feels awfully disingenuous.

I’m not saying anyone should give up their calling to campaign for civil rights or any other cause… but I am saying if you’re going to put yourself forward as a poster child, you’d damned well better be doing it from a place of personal authenticity because the truth will out. And Murphy being the ass he is, it will do so at the most inconvenient moment.

I can walk around town all day calling myself the King of the Andals and the First Men, but no matter how strongly I believe, believing doesn’t make it so. Like it or not, identify isn’t just how we feel on the inside, but is also in large part how we are perceived by those around us. It’s perfectly normal for those two identities to be a little different from one another, but generally both are at least tied to some shred of reality… in this latest case, not so much.

Identity…

I had planned to save this for the lead off entry of What Annoys Jeff this Week, but the more I think on it, the more it deserves a stand alone place here – a permanent memorial to governmental incompetence that adds insult to injury.

The Office of Personnel Management – the central human resource office for the Executive Branch – over the last four months allowed person, persons, or nation-states unknown to access the personnel records of as many as 4 million current and former federal employees. I don’t know if I’m one of those employees yet because even though the news broke in wide circulation Friday – and OPM has known about it since at least April – they still have not notified the people whose information is “out there” in the wild. With four million records up for grabs, it feels like a safe bet that some or my information is in that mix.

“But,” they say, “this happens to the private sector all the time.” That’s partially true, but not nearly the same. This isn’t someone taking a quick imprint of your credit card and scamming you for a 2000 handbag. We’re talking about potentially every shred of information that Uncle Sham has collected about his employees – name, social security number, credit record, mother’s maiden name, names and addresses of people interviewed for security clearance checks, evaluations, bank account numbers, basically every bit of data someone needs to prove that you are you in the electronic world.

So that’s the injury.

The insult? Well OPM has very helpfully copied and pasted some information about how to prevent identity theft by “monitoring financial account statements and immediately report any suspicious or unusual activity to financial institutions.” Oh, they’re probably going to throw in some low-bidder credit monitoring service for as few months as they think they can get away with, but the message from echelons higher than reality thus far has been “Adios my friends, you’re on your own.”

Network security is hard. Got it. But historically the business of government is to do what is hard – to do what the individual can’t do on their own – build the interstates, land on the moon, forge a nation out of 13 newly independent states, and then conquer a continent. If they can’t be bothered to keep the password updated on the damned human resources database, honest to God I don’t have a clue what we’re even doing anymore.

Annual history…

It’s that magical time of year where you get to distill the essence of your professional accomplishments down to less than 1000 words and then try not to slit your wrists as you realize how you’ve spent the last 365 days. Whether you’re compiling the annual unit history report or creating a list of accomplishments for your yearly performance appraisal, the one thing they serve to remind you of is how much time you’ve spent working on stuff that you have no actual interest in doing.

I’m the last person on earth to recommend that you need to find personal fulfillment in your profession. As I discovered with my ill-fated sojourn as a history teacher, having a deep and profound love for a subject doesn’t a fulfilling career make. For as much as I love all things historical, I despised most other elements of the job. Still, I’d like to think I’m doing more than writing reports, enduring meetings, and building the world’s most complex PowerPoint briefings.

The beauty part of these brief moments of professional clarity is that they only come on once a year, so for the other 11.5 months I can maintain a blissful level of willful ignorance on the topic. I think in the end, everyone is better served when I’m ignoring just how much time I’m spending on mundane, routine tasks and just keep churning out reams of paperwork on demand… because really, if I were stop and think about it for any sustained length of time, I’d be tempted to run off and join the damned circus.

I’m glad a have a job that keeps me employed (almost) full time… but I’m even more glad I don’t mistakenly identify what I do with who I am.