What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Repetitive question syndrome. In my particular area of effort, questions are unavoidable. That’s fine. Nothing I’m tinkering with is overly complex, so the answers generally come easy. The real kick in the junk is when the same question comes from three people who all work in the same office. Maybe sort some shit out among yourselves before blasting away on the email… because, honestly, anyone after the first person from your organization is going to get a verbatim copy/paste response, regardless of what subtle differences they inject into the question. I don’t mind doing the work, but I absolutely mind doing it three times with vaguely different shading.

2. Entitlement. I know this is going to be a hard pill to swallow, but no one owes you anything just because you happen to exist. The level of entitlement I see, particularly on Twitter, is almost breathtaking. I have no idea where people find the nerve to think they’re somehow entitled to the exact job (or societal permission to not work) they want, in the city where they want to live, in a home they shouldn’t have to pay for, with food and healthcare all provided on demand at someone else’s expense. Being a guy who left home at 22, schlepped all over the country to work where the opportunities presented themselves, and made shit tons of sacrifices to build the life I wanted to live, I truly don’t know from where they get the nerve. 

3. Junk email. The longer the Great Plague rages, the more junk email I get from any company with which I’ve ever even thought about doing business. Look, I know everyone is jumping through their ass trying to stay in business, but I don’t need 10 emails a week from the company I bought a watch from five years ago. It’s not going to make me want to buy another watch or really any widget I’m not already thinking about buying. I like the companies I use on a regular basis, but honest to God being regularly spammed makes me want to look at other options… which sadly would just lead to even more pointless email which would fill me with even more hostility. There are about 50 businesses that are one or two more emails way from earning a “send directly to trash” rule. 

What I learned this week…

What I learned this week in a lot of ways is just a confirmation of what I’ve known my entire adult life – and that’s that I have absolutely no interest in ever living in a city. Yes, I’m aware my disinterest in city living means I’m “missing out” on untold cultural opportunities, fine dining, education, and whatever else it is that attracts people to live in America’s dense urban centers. I’ve made my peace with being able to access those opportunities as needed from a distance if I ever really need to avail myself of them.

I’m not built for living in a place that prides itself on ginning up ever increasing population density or warehousing people stacked 20 floors deep with a thousand next door neighbors. I’m not a great outdoorsman, but I can’t fathom living somewhere my only outdoor space is ten feet of concrete sidewalk or the part six blocks away that can be closed at a moment’s notice by executive fiat. When I want access to green space, I like the option of walking across my own yard and being there – already with the forest at my doorstep.

As much as I like “home,” finding myself confined to a few hundred square feet indefinitely is the stuff of nightmares. I despised riding DC’s Metro a lifetime ago when I commuted into the District for work. The idea that it, filled with plague victims with no other options, would be my only reasonable means of transportation, sounds definitively awful. If nothing else, the Great Plague has reinforced my already deep belief in the value of elbow room between me and the next closest neighbor.

Cecil County is just far enough away that it won’t likely be a bedroom community for Baltimore or Philadelphia any time soon… but the growth of housing developments and apartment complexes along the county’s main routes undeniably means that people are finding their own reason to live here. I’ve been here long enough to notice the daily increase in traffic to and from the major outlying areas of employment. It’s already feeling just a little bit too crowded for my tastes.

I’m happy enough where I am for the time being. State land and large lots will do their part to prevent too much crowding. Once I don’t need to make residency decisions based on proximity to an employer, though, the gloves are coming off. If I’ve learned nothing else from watching the news unfold these last few weeks, it’s that I well and truly have no business living or working inside of one of America’s great Petri dishes. I’m sure it’s fine for some people, but it’ll be a hard pass for me.

What I do…

I often comment that it’s awfully hard to explain exactly what I do on a daily basis without the aid of PowerPoint. It’s usually said with my tongue firmly inserted in my cheek. Today, of course, was the exception in which the joke was on me (more so than usual). As it turns out, not only do I need PowerPoint to explain what I do, PowerPoint is becoming what I do to almost the exclusion of all other things.

Yes, today was that annual day of days when as I had the fantastic opportunity to lead a small group in proofreading well over 400 individual slides. I got to evaluate them for spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, style, contrast, proper use of the template, correct branding, and generally to make recommendations to make these 400-odd slides more presentable to the general public.

It’s horrifying that in 2017 that’s even a job people need to do… and all the more horrific because it happens to be my job in this instance. If you’ve never had the experience of hating yourself and every other living thing on the planet, I strongly recommend reserving a 700-seat auditorium, dragging a half dozen people with you, and taking four or five hours to comb through someone else’s PowerPoints to find all the places where there are two spaces instead of one or where the contrast of white on gray text just isn’t clear enough. If you get through the experience without your eyes bleeding or deciding that the voices in your head really don’t want you to “kill, kill, kill,” you’re a candidate for sainthood.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Waking up angry. There’s something about going to bed an hour earlier than usual. It’s a hope that the extra hour of down time might drive away some of the serious exhaustion that’s got to be showing in your eyes as the end of the week draws in. But then you wake up feeling even more strung out than you did when you went to bed – still exhausted, still mad at the world, where every little obstacle is a potential tripwire. Then it’s drag out of bed, shave, hope you can paint a convincing image of not loathing everyone and everything you come in contact with, and muddle through the day until it’s time for bed again. Even then you know the next morning won’t feel rested, that extra hour won’t matter, and you’ll be right back in the shit before the day even gets started. Yeah. That’s the kind of week it’s been.

2. Do “X” then “Y”. It’s a simple formula. Do one thing and then the next. It’s the logical progression of things. Problem is, no one seems to understand that there are potentially hundreds of discrete sub-steps between X and Y. All of them need doing before you can make progress. All of them need attention… and in many cases they are all actions that someone else needs to take. So you end up waiting for someone to do X-1, X-7, X-32, and X-1,245,334 before you can get to Y. That’s good enough when everyone knows what they supposed to be doing, wants to do it, and actually does it in a timely manner. Reality, being the thankless bitch that she is, of course, means that those small steps are rarely taken when they should be – so you end up sitting, waiting, cajoling, pestering, ranting, raving, and losing whatever slight grip you still have on sanity while other people get around to placing their one small piece of the puzzle.

3. My “privilege.” The next person who wanders by and recommends that I “check my privilege” might just get a well-worn size 12 Doc Marten planted directly in their crotch. There’s not a lot of generational privilege when your grandfathers worked the deep mines and heavy manufacturing in Appalachia and your parents took the next step, becoming a teacher and a cop, but only wearing the badge after serving some quality enlisted time in Uncle Sam’s green suit. So then there’s me. The grandson of a coal miner and a factory worker. Son of a public school teacher and a state trooper. I worked my ass off to make the grade in school, earned some scholarships, then worked my ass off in college to graduate magna. Then I went to work, didn’t like what I was doing and changed jobs, changed geographic locations, shoehorned myself into a program that would pay for grad school, and generally made myself available for whatever crap assignment would look good on my resume. I moved six times in ten years to improve myself and chase better opportunities instead of staying put and expecting the opportunities to come to me – or worse, expecting someone to deliver them because I have “privilege.” So when you tell me to check myself, it’s very clear you don’t know me or mine and I’m sure I don’t have a clue what the hell you’re talking about.

Last Friday…

thumbsdown-gladiator It occurred to me driving in this morning that if everything goes as planned, this will be my last Friday at the office for the rest of fiscal year 2013. Next week, I’ll be celebrating Independence Day by taking Friday off and making a 4-day weekend, but from there on out I am a part time employee of our dear old Uncle Sam.

We all know I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to live in the land of the perpetual three-day weekend, but it’s living in the land of the 80% pay check that seems like something of a problem. I’ve found that most things are never as good or as bad as I anticipate them being, but in this one little case, I’m not holding my breath for it to magically transform into a fantastic opportunity.

Thank God I like to read and write. Those are at least low budget entertainment options I can indulge in to excess in this new found free time. Have I mentioned I’m glad I didn’t get around to buying a boat?

Do over…

As best I can figure, life is collection of opportunities taken and those missed. On the whole, I like to think I’ve seized the initiative more often than I’ve let a good chance pass by. Occasionally, though, a good one slips by despite your best intentions to the contrary. If you’re incredibly lucky and manage to find yourself in just the right place at just the right time, every now and then you might just find yourself face to face with what could have been if you dove left instead of right. When life hands you a do over, it’s best not to ask too many questions and hope the older, wiser you is more audacious than your younger self. I tend not to make the same mistakes twice… but that in no way prevents me from making new and different mistakes at every opportunity. Either way, I’m taking my mulligan now.

Doing stupid…

I like to rant about stupid people. Anyone who’s read more than a post or two knows that. For the most part, I’m fussing about people who either a) don’t know they’re stupid, b) don’t care they are stupid, or c) some combination of the previous two. There’s another category that I don’t rail against nearly as often. Mostly because I have a tendency to be one of them.

There is, from time to time, the opportunity for someone who is otherwise intelligent to get up a head of steam and run headlong into a giant wall of stupid. Not because he doesn’t know the wall is there or because he thinks the wall will move, but out of a much more deep seeded desire to do stupid because somewhere in the middle of it, there’s probably going to be a good time involved. Usually doing stupid doesn’t involve more than a passing level of risk to health or welfare, and never involves anything approaching illegal, but like everything else we do, we assume some degree of risk when agreeing to take the ride.

There’s a fair chance that I’ll spend some part of the coming weekend heavily engaged in doing stupid. There’s an equal and opposite chance that it’s going to be a good time. But just in case, if I haven’t checked in over the next couple of days, send guns and money.


Musings on the 4th…

It’s hard to come up with a new 4th of July blog that doesn’t repeat the same things I have said year after year. I’m not going to go on about the laurels due the giants of the American founding and I’m not going to rail against the useless hippy bastards that want desperately to think the world is a place of sunshine and puppy dogs rather than the dangerous place it is. All I can really say is that today is the Independence Day, the High Holiday for those of us who pray at the altar of republicanism (that’s a small ‘r’ in case you missed it).

Even I’m not arrogant enough to proclaim that the United States infallible in our actions, but I will argue vehemently that we have done the best we could with the world we inherited from the failing empires of Western Europe. In good times and in bad times, I remain unashamed to say before you and before the world that I love my country. For me it has been a land of opportunity that has given far more than I had any right to hope for while demanding so little in return. I know I’m biased, but I don’t shrink from saying that taking all things as a whole, my country is the greatest on earth, not necessarily because of the global reach of our military or our role in global trade, but because of the nearly unlimited opportunities available to this son of a cop and a teacher. I couldn’t possibly ask for more than the chances I’ve been given… and for those yet to come.

It’s small and furry… and no, it’s not the damned Easter Bunny.

I’ll be doing a little reshuffling of my schedule for the next few months in order to accommodate the addition of a new fuzzball to my household. Everyone say hello to Winston (and WInstonPuppydon’t blame me for lack of creativity, his paperwork went in before I got him). I was leading more towards Wellington or William, personally. Don’t let the rotund little guy fool you, he’s a bundle of energy when he’s awake. He’s bully through and through. The timing wasn’t exactly how I had planned to make an addition, but when opportunity presents itself, I suppose we have to take advantage. More pics as I manage to take them.

Doors and windows…

It’s remarkable how opportunities present themselves, particularly those you aren’t expecting. Just when you write off one possibility, it appears again. Maybe it’s a sign from Providence… or maybe it’s because other people suck… In either case, there’s a lot. Lots of thinking to do on this one. More to follow…