Not being hassled…

I had a moment of extreme clarity this afternoon as I was sitting in my cube quietly seething at the inefficacy of things in general – and of the minuscule probability of ever getting my office computer fixed in particular. Like a real living version of Office Space, I realized that I’ve basically achieved every professional goal I’ve ever set for myself and my last real motivating factor is to cut hassle to an absolute minimum wherever possible. I try to do respectable work because that cuts down on the number of people who are going to ask for it to be redone. I cancel meetings when I don’t have anything new to share because a meeting running loose with no agenda will breed more work all on its own. I smile and nod to all manner of ridiculous ideas because fending all of them off would be both exhausting and futile.

It’s not the recipe you would want to use for ginning up someone’s best efforts, but it’s certainly one that works when the overarching objective seems to be reaching “good enough” and proceeding no further. If I were young and impressionable this might have the tendency to being dispiriting. Mercifully I gave up having spirit many years ago. Then I jettisoned professional pride and shortly thereafter personal pride in a job well done. What’s left then, it seems, is the motivation of not being hassled. What happens when that’s no longer a motivating factor, the gods alone know.

I supposed it’s yet one of those cases where I’ll have to burn that bridge when I get to it.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Twatwaffles. Here’s a fun fact – the more condescending your tone the more I will go out of my way to make even the easiest things difficult for you to do. If you insist on speaking to me in such a manner, I’ll smile happily at your jabs and then proceed to frustrate your efforts at every available opportunity. I can out-snark you on every imaginable level. Your powers are weak and pitiful compared to the untempered brunt of my sarcasm. You, my dear, clearly have no understanding of with whom you trifle. I will take great joy at your discomfiture, you hapless twatwaffle.

2. Self-driving cars. While conceptually interesting enough, I find the practical side of the idea to be something less desirable. If there’s anything I trust less than a human being behind the wheel it’s a computer programmed by a human behind the wheel. At least, at some point, one might hope that a human driver might as a last resort be expected to fall back on their instinct for self-preservation. I don’t have any such fleeting hope for a truly autonomous vehicle. It will do precisely what its programming tells it to do right up until it hits a buggy line of code and then does something completely different. If the computer on my desk at work is any indication, by the time we clog up our car’s computer with sufficient software to protect it from hackers, advertising bloatware, and the actual programming needed to perform mechanical and navigational operations, well, I expect to be about 17 minutes into my commute before the damned thing starts throwing off errors and just gives up and shuts itself off. I’m sure there is an enormous market for these fantastical autonomous cars, but I think I’d like to keep the 20th century simplicity of a steering wheel, a throttle, a brake, and a gear stick (clutch optional).

3. Falling out of the sky. I’m not sure if there are actually more planes falling out of the sky now than there were in the past or if we just hear more about them now than we use to. I’m sure there’s some handy website that keeps track of that information that’s only a Google search away, but really the actual numbers don’t matter as much as perception. It just seems like these contraptions are hurtling back towards earth like giant man-carrying lawn darts way more often than they should. This isn’t likely to stop me from boarding my next flight, but I’d be lying if I said a certainly unnerving series of “what if” thoughts won’t spend the entirety of that flight lurking around in the dark recesses of my mind.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Big Pharma Guy. Despite the public outcry it’s actually not the physical embodiment of Big Pharma that bothers me about someone who ramps up the price of their product from $13 to $750. The dude might be an MBA, but he clearly wasn’t paying attention in the “shaping public opinion” part of class. Sure, it was a douche move, but hey, I’m going to tell you to go out there and charge whatever the market will tolerate for your product. The fact that he’s been so quick to backpedal gives me a pretty strong indication that he didn’t think things through all the way to their logical conclusion. What annoys me more than anything though, is that I’ve never had the foresight to buy the patent on some widget I can make for less than a dollar and turn around and sell to a willing marketplace for thousands of percentage points in mark up.

2. Volkswagen. Someone established tough standards and then someone else found a way to lie in order to beat the standard. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s always worked. While I agree that Volkswagen did a very bad thing, I’m not sure why anyone is reacting with surprise. People, almost as if by nature, look for the loophole that lets them do whatever they wanted to do with the least amount of trouble. In this case, jiggering with the onboard computer was the path of least resistance. A test is only as good as the way it’s validated, or as a wise old Warrant Officer once told me, “You don’t do what the boss don’t check.” If you’re going to insist on having regulations, at least then insist that someone is responsible for making sure the testing mechanism works. I don’t blame Volkswagen for following their own self interest so much as I blame a system that was put in place that let them get away with it for the better part of a decade.

3. Delayed interest. When I’ve been working on something for months, there is no conceivable way I can bring you up to speed on the intricacies of each bit and piece of the puzzle 37 seconds before that particular thing is done. Thirty seven seconds may be an exaggeration, but only a minor one. At some point when I tell you something needs signed it’s going to have to be ok in believing that I know what I’m doing. At least we can put that dirty rumor that we’re trusted professionals to rest now.

100 bottles…

Somewhere, somehow, someone is lurking around our building complex sucking down cheap liquor like it’s their job. No. Literally. Like it’s really their job. Most people might say that’s pure speculation, but I know it’s a fact. I know it because the facilities people blasted out an “all hands” fireball-liqueur-shot-300x300nastygram informing us that in excess of 100 “miniature” bottles of Fireball (empty, of course) had been found making a mess of the local sewer lift pump station… which means the individual in question is hanging around in the can to get their morning eye opener or afternoon pick me up and then flushing the evidence.

As a tax payer I should probably be profoundly offended. As a professional I should be ashamed at the actions of someone who is nominally my colleague. But really all I really am is pissed off that this asshat has managed to sneak a little happiness in a bottle into the place and they haven’t been polite enough to share anything. That’s just rude, because God knows most days the sun isn’t even over the yard arm before I start feeling like it’s time for a cold one… or a warm one, depending on how the prick is smuggling in his contraband.

Trusted professionals, indeed.


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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. LinkedIn: The World’s Largest Professional Network. Meh. I’ve had an account on LinkedIn for longer than I can remember. I have no idea why. I’ve never used it. I’m not interested in networking. I don’t like it online any better than I like it in person. But still, 347 times a week I get spammed by the one social media site that I’ve found utterly useless for my purposes. It doesn’t take much effort to hit the delete button, but there’s just a certain pain-in-the-ass factor at play here. All things being equal, the chances of my ever looking for a job “on the outside” are somewhere between slim and none… and processional accomplishments on the inside don’t exactly translate well to that world anyway. Unless someone can give me a good reason not to pull the plug, my LinkedIn account is heading to the trash the next time I do some digital housekeeping.

2. Survey. When you’re buying a house in Maryland you’re only required to have a location drawing rather than a full blown property survey. The drawing showed the location of the house and any other “improvements” against an overlay that more or less corresponds to the size and shape of your lot. It’s a minimum degree of assurance for the lender that the house is where it’s supposed to be. Surveys require people to go out with tools and physically locate and mark the defined corners of the property. It’s the way to definitively know what you’re about to buy… so yes, when I say I want a survey instead of a drawing, I know what I’m asking for. I know it’s more expensive. I know it’s not required by the state or by the lender. It is, however, required by me, the guy who’s on the hook for paying the bills.

3. Full weeks. Due to the combination of snow and taking the occasional half day to deal with house-related stuff, this is the first full week I’ve worked in a long while. It’s more exhausting than I remembered. It’s probably a bad sign that I’m excited by the idea of moving not so much because it’s a new and awesome place to live, but because dragging boxes three miles down the road and spending a week unpacking them means that for a week I really only to have one job. It’s sad that’s what passes for relaxing these days.

Information overload…

The problem with the internet is it puts every little thing you want to know right at your fingertips. Sure, that’s also the very best part of the internet, but that’s not the side of the coin I’m dealing with just now. In the opening stages of House Search 2015, I’m finding some decent places – or at least places to start… but then my damned inquisitive mind starts to wander.

It wanders to issues of property tax and leads me to the state government websites. It wanders to issues of boundaries, zoning, and planned nearby development which leads me to the county planning website. It skips towards flooding and hazard mitigation which leads me to FEMA’s notoriously inaccurate maps. And then there are the pictures – The fuzzy ones taken by the realtors and then on to the satellite imagery, bird’s eye views shot from airplanes, and Google’s evil car cam. As a side note, Google has not yet reached many the back roads of Ceciltucky. I find it oddly comforting that they actually don’t know everything.

I know more or less what I’m looking for in a house. I’ve moved enough to know what I like, what I don’t, and the fact that it’s all one enormous compromise in order not to totally blow the budget. I suppose it’s time to bring on a professional to help me narrow the scope a bit. From what I gather the good ones make pretty decent coin for sifting through the data I’ve been trying to manage on my own for the last few weeks.

I have to keep telling myself it would be a shame to just hand over their commission without really putting them through their paces to earn it.