Now that I’ve spent a day at the office, it feels like 2019 is well and truly underway. The meetings, the phone calls, the email, the regular and recurring requests to change “happy” to “glad” on every piece of paper leaving my desk… the calendar may be changed, but the new year feels reliably like the old. It is, if nothing else, the devil I am extremely well acquainted with by the point.
Everyone wants to start off the new year drunk on champagne and optimism – believing in spite of themselves that surely this year will be better than the last. I’ve always thought such optimism was a funny attitude with which to go through life – especially after living through a few decade’s worth of new years and finding that the only thing that ever really changes is the date.
I’m not saying that the new year needs to be welcomed with doom and gloom, just that we collectively heap the time of year with mounds of unreasonable expectations. I try to be a bit more circumspect in acknowledging the arrival of 2019. Taken on average, some things will be marginally better. Other things will be marginally worse. A few things will swing wildly in one direction or the other. Mostly I expect that things will muddle through largely unchanged year over year.
So far my ability to predict the future is remarkably prescient.
1. Running out of time. Even as I grudgingly accept the fact that it’s necessary to work in exchange for money which I can then exchange for goods and services, I cannot quite shake off the feeling that I’d rather be safely tucked into Fortress Jeff with an endless supply of hot coffee and a mountain of books to read. Mentally preparing myself to go out and rejoin the world is, in a word, traumatic. It’s times like this I can see how one might just get suckered into the fool’s gold appeal of something like a “universal basic income” scheme.
2. January finances. As a professional adult head of household, January has always been a budget buster of a month for me. It’s the month when my biggest bills come due for the year – car insurance, home owner’s association dues, paying off Christmas gifts and travel expenses, the start of the winter heating season, and a few others. No matter how well the year is budgeted, January always comes around like a swift kick in the teeth and throw in one more large dollar item than I was projecting. It’s like the new year giving you a rabbit punch just to remind you that just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean it’s anything more than business as usual.
3. Congress and the president. If you thought having the executive and legislative branches run by the same party put the “fun” in dysfunctional, just wait until you see the magnificent shitshow that Washington devolves into this afternoon when Democrats assume power in the House of Representatives. To all those who scream “false equivalency” or who want to blame one side or the other, I’ll simply say go fuck yourself. A pox on both their houses. No one sitting in our hallowed halls of power is an innocent.
Looking back, I’m forced to admit that I have something of an uneven history of New Year’s Eve posts here on WordPress. It seems to weave between the extremes of overly sentimental on one side and barely acknowledging the changing of the year on the other. It’s easy to slip down either path, depending on the mood that strikes me when I sit down at the keyboard.
Today’s mood is decidedly introspective. I’ll just assume it has something to do with the rain falling again in what feels like a year where it hasn’t really every stopped falling. In spite of the introspection, I’m afraid I really haven’t come up with any deep year end message to leave you here. Instead, I think I’ll use the opportunity to just say thank you for reading along with whatever crackpot ideas and personal screeds show up here. Screaming into the internet’s void is a fairly inexpensive form of four or five day a week therapy for me. It’s always gratifying to find that others may also have a passing interest in whatever it is that’s rattling around my head on any given day.
Those numbers are up a little from last year, but a still off the heyday numbers back in 2013. I can’t bring myself to feel badly about that. The sheer amount of online content created in the last five years makes the fact that anyone finds my slice of it a bit remarkable, really – especially when you consider that it doesn’t involve embracing videos, porn, memes, or even pictures most of the time.
It’ll be 2019 in a few hours. I expect I’ll be asleep by then, but it means I’ll be able to catch the first few peaceful hours of the new year while the average revelers are still tucked soundly into whichever bed they’ve poured themselves or face down drooling on whatever floor they’ve happened to collapse onto. I’d like to think those early hours will give me a first look at a year bound to go better than the one we’re ending… but we’ve been given the opportunity to live in “interesting times” so I expect 2018 is just scratching the surface of what we can expect once the collective hangover starts to lift in 2019.
Chalk this up to one of those nights where my worst enemy is a blank screen and a flashing cursor. There are worse problems to have – ass cancer for instance – but I really do try rather hard to have something engaging, interesting, or otherwise worth reading here four days a week… even if sometimes the word count runs a little bit short. There are a few days a year when getting across that bar is harder than others.
I’m going to blame it on the onrushing calendar and the impending arrival of Christmas and the long sweep of days off that goes along with it. It wouldn’t be entirely true to say that I’ve engaged cruise control and switched my brain over into rest mode, but it would’t be entirely misleading either. The fact is, I’m doing my level best to make the next week and a half as absolutely low key and minimally demanding as possible.
There are plenty of external factors I can’t control, but there are plenty that I can exert influence upon – like when someone asks if I’m going to scheduled a meeting about some random project coming up in April. The answer to that one is a hard no, spoken with conviction. Something, of course, could come along and convert that no to a yes, but it won’t be because I’m calling a meeting just because we haven’t had one in a while.
I’m easing into the end of 2018. So bear with me if anything around here feels just a little less energetic than usual.
WordPress use to helpfully provide a year in review feature that would auto-magically spit out a post with all the facts and figures about what posts were popular, where your views were coming from, and all manner of information about what your readers found interesting. Sadly, they discontinued that feature a couple of years ago, so it’s up to me to come up with something to say here at the end of the year.
In plain language, this year was almost exactly average with about 6,600 views and 3,684 visitors. Some years have been better, some worse, and I guess that’s about all we can reasonably expect to say about blogging – or life for that matter.
The most viewed post of the year wasn’t even a post from this year. Instead, you have to reach back all the way to 2014 find the post titled For Official Use Only. Some people would mind that, but me, I’m not picky about where people are looking so long as they’re looking. In case you’re wondering, you had to drop all the way down to the third most viewed post to find one written in 2017. You probably won’t be shocked to find out it’s about people making bad decisions and the rest of us poor sods who have to listen to them talk about it.
In related news, it’s also the first year that “hot lesbian cheerleader” didn’t lead the ranking of search terms that brought people here. I’m not sure if that says more about what people are searching for or the content I’ve been posting this year… so make of that what you will.
I won’t even speculate what 2018 holds for the world. Assuming the new year is about the same as the old, it’ll be about equal parts joy and terror, with a heavy dose of “what the actual fuck” thrown in for good measure. The only thing I’m reasonably sure about is that as long as I have an internet connection and and a few thoughts that I can’t stand keeping to myself, I’ll be here writing them down and sharing them with the world. That too could be good or bad, depending on your perspective. Since it seems to help preserve my sanity, I’m going with the idea that remains a net good overall.
Before I slip away into a world of making dinner, mixing drinks, and settling in for a quiet night with the various creatures here at Fortress Jeff, I wanted to take a few minutes and wish everyone a safe and happy new year. 2016 has been a real mother and I don’t know anyone who’s going to be sad seeing it disappear into the rear view. I’m envious of all those posting online in the expectation that 2017 will be better. The realist in me… well, the realist opinion isn’t one that really needs shared on New Year’s Eve. There’s a whole new year coming for that.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you too all those who supported me over the last year – your comments, emails, and occasional raised eyebrows mean more to me than you’ll know… and more than I’ll ever be able to adequately express. This little site, whether you think of it as a passion project or a vanity exercise, has let me express myself in ways that I would never, ever be able to do otherwise. The fact that so many of you come back day in and day out means everything to me.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie’s a hand o’ thine! And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne.
In a few short minutes we’ll bid a fond (and in many cases drunken) farewell to 2014 – a year mostly remarkable for the sheer volume of outright foolishness that we managed to cram into it as a species. It’s easy to assume that the whole bloody thing is going to hell in a handbag. Maybe it is. As batshit crazy as the universe seems bent on being, I still wouldn’t rather be anywhere other than right here, right now. Well, technically I suppose I’d rather be in bed, but that seems like a minor technical point. In fact I’m the only creature currently stirring in this particular house. Maggie and Winston had the good sense to go on to bed, knowing that 2015 will be here on time regardless of whether they were awake to greet it or not. In fact, following their lead seems like a better idea with each passing minute.
So before I plop down on the couch and doze off well before midnight, I’d like to wish everyone the very best in 2015. See ya bright and early tomorrow.
1. Customer service. On Tuesday morning, I drove an hour towards Baltimore expecting to transact a not insignificant amount of business with a well reviewed small local retailer. I originally planned to go in on Monday, but noted on their website that they were closed Sundays and Mondays. No harm no foul. Of course their site didn’t make any mention of the fact that they were also going to be closed on Tuesday this week. So I wasted two hours and burned half a tank of gas driving around north eastern Maryland on Tuesday for no apparent reason. As much as I’ll be the first to tell you that keeping up with a website is a pain in the ass, it seems to me if you’re going to bother to have one, it’s probably worth keeping the information up to date. Otherwise, as in this case, you’ve thoroughly annoyed a cash customer before they even walk through the door. I’ll probably still do business with this outfit because they’ve been recommended to me so highly, but it wouldn’t take much in the way of less than excellent service at this point to send me down the road to the next closest competitor.
2. Email. If anyone is wondering how I spent my first day at work after almost two weeks off, it was largely dedicated to reading, responding to, filing, or deleting 127 emails that rolled in over the Christmas-to-New-Years window. That’s not an exceptionally heavy load – it would have been far worse if I had taken off two weeks in say the middle of the spring. Look, I think it’s cute that there were a few people out there trying to get something done over the last two weeks, but since I wasn’t one of them, it’s going to take me a day or two to get back up to speed. Especially since I wasn’t exactly spending a lot of time pondering what important bit of email I was missing while I was away. Trust me when I tell you that sending me a follow up email the day I get back isn’t going to improve the response you’ll get. In fact it’s just going to make the process work more slowly for both of us. Now that I’m back in the saddle, it’s safe to assume I’ll work your issue in whatever priority it’s given by those elevated to positions higher than mine. In the meantime, have a cookie and get off my ass.
3. Attention span. I don’t know if it’s me or my surroundings, but lately my attention span feels like it’s all of about 37 seconds. That’s great for some things, I suppose, but I’d have a hard time listing what any of those might be. For purposes of reading, writing, or really trying to get anything done with any semblance of speed, it’s really kind of a hassle. I’d hoped that the new year would bring some kind of renewed focus. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like 2013: Part Two in that regard. As always, I’ll muddle through until the glitch works itself out.
One of the parts of being an adult that no one thought enough of to warn me about is that after a decade and a half of getting up for work in the dark hours of the morning, your body might accidentally attune itself to that time. Then you end up waking up at what some might consider “early” regardless of how late you went to sleep. Since I find it aggravating beyond measure to just lay in bed awake, the only thing to do is get up and get on with the day at hand.
I’m not saying there isn’t some virtue in 6AM… especially in 6AM on New Years Day. That virtue? For 90-120 minutes the world is absolutely quiet. Inside. Outside. For a few minutes, it’s like all the best parts of I am Legend. Inevitably, though, the rest of the world wakes up – hungover, but alive, to begin their day.
It’s just after 8AM as I’m finishing up this post. Already I can hear the traffic picking up outside and know that my revels are ended. Even so, it was a good couple of hours. I can only hope that it’s a harbinger of the year to come. And now that the world’s waking up, let’s go take 2014 for all she’s worth.