I was thrilled today to see much of the North Korea hot takes that filled my newsfeed over the last few days giving way to the funny animal posts and random memes that I’ve come to rely on social media to deliver.
Unfortunately, my feed was equally crammed with a third category of post that I could have really done without. Instead of making me laugh or teaching me something new, apparently the internet decided that today I needed to learn about every dog available for adoption between New Jersey and central Virginia. Believe me when I say it was 100% information I’d have been happy doing without.
On a typical day I wander through life with a generic sense of wanting all the animals. When the internet uses its communicative powers to give each of those animals form and substance, though, all rational arguments like, vet bills, food, training, and not turning into an animal hoarder flow directly out the window.
So it turns out I’m going to need a break from the internet because not because the news of the day is so upsetting, but because animals are just so damned amazing and I want to bring all of them home.
It’s another day after an extended weekend and another day where I have very little on my mind. Spending a maximum amount of time at home tending the yard, tending the animals, sunk deeply into a book, or just generally avoiding people is clearly good for calming my brain even at the cost of having anything scathing to write about. It’s probably worth the trade off.
Before giving a mighty shrug of indifference I considered a number of topics for today – North Korea, border security, Starbucks, social media, and a few others. It really comes down to not being able to gin up much of an interest in any of them. That might be when the real truth hit me – although I have a passing interest in wide swath of topic areas, there are only a handful I actually give a damn about on a regular basis. That number gets even smaller when you whittle the time down to any individual day.
That’s all a round about way of saying that when it comes right down to it, I simply lack the bandwidth or interest to care about most issues. I don’t and won’t judge someone for what they choose to care about, but I’ll save my outrage and effort for the ones that are important to me. It’s not personal, just the reality of having limited time and resources and wanting to allocate them in a way that best serves my own interests.
There is something deeply appealing to me about pulling up the drawbridge and applying the focusing exclusively on whatever is of interest in the moment. That version of my reality is a number of years off yet, but it’s the happy dream of the future that sustains me.
I have no idea what’s happening in the world. That’s not an exaggeration. At the moment, anything that is happening outside my immediate line of site might as well be an undiscovered country. I’m assuming the North Koreans haven’t bombed California and Donald Trump is still president because those are the kinds of stories that would have made Facebook explode.
I didn’t set out to cut myself off these last few days from global events, but I find that I don’t regret it all that much either. I find increasingly that if I’m busy tending to me and mine, the amount of time available to be all that interested decreases dramatically. I’m mostly OK with that… which is easy to say as I sit here in the fading light of this grand sweep of days off. Tomorrow is going to bring be back to wall to wall televisions spewing what passes for news all day long. I’m guessing it will take me about 24 minutes to get all caught up on whatever it is I missed.
I’ve heard it said that ignorance is bliss. That may or may not be the case, but it seems that I’m a happier and probably more sane individual when my consumption of current events is held to a bare minimum.
1. Looking busy. During an average year there are plenty enough times when the number of requirements arriving over the side are large and numerous enough to swamp you before you ever get a chance to close them out. The few days before Christmas are not, generally, one of those times. The real issue now is no matter how important the thing is, the people you need to provide the answers, aren’t around. Sure, you’ll make an effort to close out those things that can be closed out without needing a lot of outside input, but with that done, you’re left largely with either make work projects or simply trying to make yourself look busy. At least when I get back after the first of the year, I’ll have a beautifully set up file system already built for all of those new 2018 emails. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.
2. CNN. The day after a bill passed out of Congress giving most Americans an income tax cut, CNN’s website lead off with the banner headline “Enjoy your tax cuts while they last.” They go on to concede that “a lot of households… will see a lower tax bill in the next several years.” The article largely focuses on the expiration of many of these individual cuts by 2027 – a decade hence. The thing is, though, Congress can pretty much do whatever it wants. Tomorrow they can pass a bill making these cuts permanent. The next day they can pass a bill that changes the date they expire to a week from Tuesday. Sure, I would have loved to see the individual tax reduction provisions made permanent in the original bill, but I’m damned if I’ll reject a reduction now when balanced by what might be a decade in the future. A decade is a hell of a long time in politics – more than enough time to apply maximum pressure to our duly elected representatives to ensure the cuts they’ve made now are made permanent or replaced by better alternatives… and bird in the hand and whatnot.
3. The shortest day. We have the solstice over with now, but it’s a long, dark climb back to a point when we don’t exist as a race of mole people, traversing to and from home each day in utter darkness. I’m sure some people will wax poetic about the majesty of the shifting seasons, but I’d be happy enough stuck on high summer with its ready supply of daytime in big, beautiful 15 hour blocks.
One of the walls of the room wherein I’m trapped for eight hours a day features three large televisions. At any given time at least one of them shows a feed from the major cable news outlets shouting the current headlines at us. You don’t realize how little “new” news happens in a day until you spend months with rehashes and repeats washing over you every 30 minutes. It’s possible there’s a lot of news breaking out there somewhere, but it’s an awfully small portion that anyone is going to spend time talking about (and trying to monetize through advertising).
One of the better side effects of this 40-hour a week exposure is that my brain seems to have developed a basic self-preservation strategy of tuning almost all of it out. When someone asks “hey did you hear that?” I can usually respond honestly with, “no.” The other side effect I’ve noticed is that this constant stream of news has left me bereft of the desire to watch or seek out any news for the rest of the day.
With the exception of a few minutes of local weather and finding out the daily body count in Baltimore when I get home from work, the rest of the night is almost completely news free. I should show more of an interest, but I find this newfound disinterest to be a remarkably freeing experience. Sure, I still care what goes on in the world, but I’m becoming a hell of a lot more selective about what I want to burn an increasingly limited amount of mental bandwidth learning about or engaging on.
Some news is good for entertainment value (when bad things happen to stupid people), other bits are good to know because it impacts finances (business news and federal budget stuff), and finally there’s the space allocated to any news or information involving animals. Past that, maybe I should care, but I just don’t. Whatever intellectual energy I have left once I get home is far more effectively spent focused on the next spy novel or great thick books about war.
I intend this self-imposed (partial) news blackout to continue indefinitely.
1. The “Help Desk.” I converted to Windows 10 a week ago. I immediately filed a “trouble ticket” with the great big national help desk in the sky to address issues that were obvious immediately – I can’t use two monitors, file encryption prevents me from editing and saving documents, and using my computer to project a briefing onto a screen is problematic at best. Fortunately I’m not an information sector employee who uses his computer to generate and manipulate information into a coherent format to be used by others in decision making. Thank sweet merciful Jesus that the ticket has been “assigned to a local technician.” Now if after only a week someone could actually work on fixing the damned infernal machine and make it work properly we’d be all set.
2. News cycle. We have a TV in our office that runs all day every day on one of the major news networks. Being situationally aware is all well and good, but except for a rare moment of actual breaking news, what you find very quickly is the news at 9AM sounds a lot like news at 11 AM which sound a lot like the news at 2PM… and round and round we go. I’m all for some kind of background noise, but by the time I get out of that room I don’t care how compelling a news day it has been, I’ve utterly and completely stopped caring about what’s going on in the world. It seems to me a sane person can only hear the same thing repeated three or four hundred times before it starts doing bad things to their head.
3. Paying by credit card. Every website on the planet wants you to “save your credit card on file so they can auto renew your service next year.” That makes perfect sense for services that I use on a recurring basis. It’s a good theory. In a world where credit card providers have their networks being breached on a quarterly basis, though, in some cases I have three new card numbers assigned long before the yearly subscription runs out and it’s time to auto-renew. So really what I need all these companies to do is to stop giving me the option of saving my account / automatically renewing my subscriptions because we both know I’m still going to have to come back and enter all that shit on your page again since it’s all changed anyway.
Well, it’s once again election eve in America. The importance of election day as a single day of civic duty has been mitigated somewhat by new laws that allow early voting. In many places, the election has been on us for weeks now already. I’ve voted absentee from time to time, but whenever it has been in any way feasible, I make an effort to vote on the day itself. It’s just one of those quirky ways that the traditionalist in me makes itself known, I suppose.
I overhead someone today commenting that they were glad that it was about to be over. “Not even close,” I thought to myself. Even if there aren’t month long recounts, challenges in the courts, and general electoral dysfunction, we’re simply setting stage for four years of of political infighting as vicious as any we’ve seen in living memory. The extreme left won’t be happy until we’ve dug ourselves into a Socialist Worker’s Paradise. The extreme right, in the same vein, hasn’t shown any indication of giving up the fight to reset our clocks to 1856. There are a litany of means and methods determined minority on either side can forestall any movement within the creaking machinery of government. Now if that determined minority exists on both flanks, well, the stage is set for things to get awfully interesting… or awfully frustrating depending on how objective you’re willing to be as an outside observer.
Throw away the polls. Ignore the prognosticators. The only thing that anyone knows for sure is that when the last of tomorrow’s presidential votes is tabulated the party that’s left on the outside looking in while resist mightily at every step. That’s the nature of the beast we’ve created – and as long as we as an electorate steadfastly refuse to accept any more than two major political parties it’s the beast we’re stuck with.
The good news is that there aren’t likely to be tanks in the streets tomorrow night. Cities probably aren’t going to burn. The bad news is that we’re going to finish the night even more divided than ever. The pol who figures out a way to crack the code on that is going to roll into office with a mandate like no other… but I’m not holding my breath on seeing that day.