What I learned this week…

Sometimes I wish I’d never started underwriting Fridays to feature “What I learned this week.” As often as not, the answer, really, is “not much.”

As it turns out, unless something is running wildly out of tolerance, most of my weeks are remarkably consistent. There’s enough different most weeks to not be entirely Groundhog Day, but the similarity is enough that it’s not exactly the environment for learning new and interesting things.

This week has been another like the others – not so much full of new ideas or experiences, but heavy with reminders of lesson already learned – like nothing will be critical to the Uberbosses until it’s close enough to bite them in the ass. My personal favorite this week is the old tale of waiting to the last possible moment to throw up a new, completely undiscussed requirement which threatens to derail weeks of work.

There’s very little I do that should be particularly difficult, but Lord don’t we find a way to make even the easiest things into the heaviest of lifts… and all for no apparent reason.

Lord save me from the Bureaucracy. Maybe it’s time to get working on that sequel to Nobody Told Me…

Marks on the wall…

It’s mid-May, a magical time on the calendar where the end of the long slog through the months of spring bereft of federal holidays is in sight. The long holiday weekend for Memorial Day is almost upon us. That usually marks the first of my planned four-day weekends, with Fridays as often as not spent trolling through used book shops, antique stores, flea markets, and barn sales. Given the climate, that normal kickoff to summer doesn’t feel likely to happen, which is, in a word, disappointing.

The next mark on the wall is a week of leave starting on June 1st that I scheduled back in the depths of winter. That’s historically a week when I go further afield on my quests for the next interesting item – ranging widely through eastern Pennsylvania, the Delmarva, and central Maryland. That too seems like an activity that will surely still be out of reach just three short weeks from now. I also question the value of taking a restorative week of vacation time when I’ve already mostly been home for the best part of two and a half months. I’ve often enough needed a proper break from the office, but needing a rest from being at the house is beyond my understanding.

In any case, the marks on the wall by which I plan my year appear to be lining up to fall in 2020. Admittedly, two months into the Great Plague and its associated closures probably makes me a little late to this particular party. Although I find this impending change of plans annoying, they’re not debilitatingly so. They certainly don’t drive me to take to the streets in protest… even if that’s the cool new thing to do.

There will be other marks on other walls at some point in the future yet to be determined. My vacation time balance isn’t going anywhere (as long as I’m not dumb enough to let it expire at the end of the year) so holding those plans in abeyance isn’t cause for alarm just yet. Getting all up in my feelings about anything that’s not happening feels about as useful and productive as wandering down to the river and ordering the tide to go out. 

On giving up…

I’ve mostly given up on trying to get a post together on Friday nights. It’s generally not for lack of something to say so much as it’s because by the time Friday night rolls into town, I can barely stomach the idea of spending more time looking at a monitor. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, Friday night seems to be the night my brain mashes down on the “system reboot” switch. Just staying awake until 9:30 or 10:00 will be a major accomplishment. Forget any wild notion of trying to get something done or taking the effort to go somewhere. It’s a losing battle and I’m largely given up on fighting the inevitable.

I know in about 11 hours I’m going to wake up and be, what in my world passes for refreshed. I’ll charge through the next two days knocking items off my to-do list and sometime Sunday night realize that the weekend burned off way too quickly. Such is the near-mechanical rhythm of of my weeks. Still, now and then, it would be nice to get home, look around, and want to go out, raise hell, and get stupid. As it is, all I’m really interested in getting is another pillow so my spot on the couch is all the more comfortable.

Woops…

So in my rush to get through everything on my to do list, I neglected the fact that there are still two more days available in this weekend. Since I’m not the type to just make up things to do, it seems I’ll have more free time than I was estimating. The down side, of course, is that I was expecting a new episode of TrueBlood tonight… But since I’ve got a good book and plenty of ice cold Red Stripe, every little thing is gonna be alright.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Filling in all the down time. I’ve got a marked tendency towards filling every available gap in down time with something I deem to be productive. That might be a good habit to have when you’re working full time, writing 20+ hours a week, and trying to keep a house from being covered in filth, but I’ll be honest, that part of me that is fundamentally a slacker really misses big blocks of down time – those chunks of time when I played video games, watched movies, and otherwise did absolutely nothing productive. Lately it’s been a mad dash to get it all in before crashing at 10:00 or 11:00 in hopes of squeezing in five or six hours of sleep. I’m not sure that’s going to, or if it can be an enduring schedule for me, but since there’s still so many things I want to get too and not so much in the way of time available to get to them, there doesn’t feel like there’s going to be much room for change in the foreseeable future.

2. Wants versus needs. In a perfect world I’d divide my day more or less equally between writing and sitting on a beach on some out of the way island. Unfortunately, I need to eat, need to pay rent, and need some kind of nominally stable income (which is what government work use to be before the sequester kicked in). Whereas I want to write, I actually need to work… unless I can gin up a way to start selling 137 copies of Nobody Told Me… The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees every day of the year. All I need to is improve sales by 6850% and I’ll be all set to unify my wants and my needs under one banner. I was probably happier before I knew that little factoid.

3. The Congress of the United States. One of my perennial favorites. On a positive note, they appear to have managed to pass a continuing resolution (not to be confused with an actual budget) that will keep the government open for the rest of the fiscal year while continuing the federal pay freeze through the end of its third year. Somewhere in the fine print, they also managed to allow DoD to dodge sending out 800,000 furlough notices for two more weeks… which doesn’t actually mean that anyone will be furloughed for fewer days, just that we’ll have less time to cram in all the days into an ever shortening fiscal yeah. I’m sure the Members are deeply relieved by this while they head home to enjoy their two-week Easter recess. Even now I’m sometimes still amazed that this is the way we really run this country. Bat. Shit. Crazy.

Spoke too soon…

Last Saturday I commented on the more or less mundane weekend routine I like to slip into. As usual, life has conspired to turn me into a liar at the first available opportunity. Someone (I’m looking at you, Cait) bet me a chicken dinner that I couldn’t stay awake until midnight… which was summarily changed to 1:30 when I showed signs of getting it done. I might have seen the clock roll past 3AM before finally dropping off. It was a matter of principle, after all. Sadly, my internal clock doesn’t stand on principle so I was still wide awake at 7:30. That’s fine. I mean who needs more than four hours of sleep anyway?

Fortunately, I managed to find the coffee without too much trouble and even got a roast in the crock pot (yeah, I don’t know when I’m going to get my chicken dinner prize). Winston decided it was a good morning to eat a bottle of hand sanitizer, so I’m keeping an eye on him, too. And the person who instigated this chain of events is still asleep. Somehow I thing I’m getting the short end of the bet-you-can’t-say-awake deal. It’s decidedly not a routine Saturday.

If anyone needs me, there’s a good chance I’ll be right here – asleep at the keyboard.

Tires…

I ordered new tires a week ago. Then of course the shop wasn’t open the day before Christmas. Then it snowed and everything was closed. Then the tires didn’t show up the next day as scheduled. And as a result, here I sit, 6 hours after I had planned on leaving still waiting for the tires and the truck to actually come together. I’m a man who lives and dies my having a plan… and currently my plan is jacked up to the point of being in recognizable. If I’m surly the rest of the day at least you’ll know why.

Teamwork sucks…

OK, team, for the record tomorrow is a federal holiday. That means that the sooner we get our shit together this afternoon, the sooner we can begin enjoying an extra day off this week. This is a pass-fail course, so no one is grading you on how many cute pictures you can put into a briefing. I hate to break it to you, but no one cares. You’re not being graded on this assignment and they guy who does your yearly evaluation will never know that you had 12 slides instead of 10. I grow weary of trying to nudge the discussion from “what sound lobsters make when they’re boiled” to something slightly more productive. I appreciate that you want to be a hard charger and do great things… but this is a mandatory training course, not your actual job. We all have enough garbage to deal with back at the office, so why are you trying to make life harder than it needs to be when we’re on TDY? Sorry, but there’s just no good reason that we should have been working at 4:00 today when they cut us loose to build a briefing at 10:30. You, my dear teammates, are asshats.