Doing the work…

I’ve done well for myself. I’ve taken advantage of my educational opportunities all along the path of life. Occasionally I even think that I’ve done better for myself that a simple boy fron down the crick really has any right to expect. Don’t think for a moment that I take any of that for granted. 

I’ve seen a lot of the world and had the opportunity to have some truly remarkable experiences. At heart, though, I ultimately think of myself as a technician – a wrench turner in the data economy. I’ve tried the whole management and supervision thing and we’re all better off for my having given it up.

Mostly, I really just want to be left alone to do the work. That’s where my talents and interests are applied to the most effect.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Hard won experience tells me that I can either spend six hours doing the work or spend those same six hours sitting in meetings talking about the work. If I’m doing the latter, there’s absolutely no progress being made on the former. Putting more simply, I can talk about the damned work or I can do the damned work. I cannot, however, do both simultaniously. Personally, I know which one I’d greatly prefer. 

However, my opinion on the subject is clearly not of any great significance. If it were I wouldn’t regularly be spending 50% or more of my days sitting around jibberjabbering instead of getting the job done.

Specialists…

I’m old enough to remember taking the family dog to a vet who ran his practice out of a converted shed in his back yard. Treatment for most any ailment was a shot of antibiotics and a bland diet – his weapon of choice was boiled hamburger and rice. It was the middle 1980s and the very notion, at least in the mountains of western Maryland, that there should be anything remotely like a “specialty” vet didn’t cross any of our minds. Dogs got their rabies shot every 3rd year, ate table scraps mixed with their dry food, and all lasted for somewhere between 8 and 10 years.

Flash forward 30 years…

My bulldog, being typical of his breed, assembled an impressive roster of medical professionals on his “healthcare team.” Cardiologists, allergists, orthopedic surgeons, and anesthesiologists over the course of treating his many various conditions. My labrador, now into old age herself, has already acquired a opthmologist. In the coming weeks it’s likely we’ll add a radiologist, an oncologist, and a general surgeon to her list.

Veterinary medicine as it exists today – with the ability to diagnose and treat the family dog in a remarkably similar way to how how I’d be treated if I walked through the doors at Hopkins with the same symptoms – is a marvel. It’s also a money making juggernaught, but that’s a separate discussion. The practice I’m taking Maggie to this week in hopes of working up a final diagnosis and beginning outline of a treatment plan includes easily a thousand or more years of combined experience in emergency medicine, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, radiology, neurology, oncology, and ophthalmology, in addition to maintaining six surgeons on staff. Their posted resumes are suitably impressive (yes, I’ve read them all). I’m cautiously optimistic that all this will translate into identifying what the best options look like for the road ahead.

I’m walking into this week with just enough knowledge based on internet deep diving and journal article reading to hopefully ask reasonably informed questions. I’ll be counting on this bunch to know the line between what science can do and what science should do. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m thankful that the state of the art has grown beyond crate rest along with boiled hamburger and rice, but there’s more than a little bit of me that misses simple, country diagnostics and treatment – and its inherent acceptance that the power of medical science to extend life has, and should have, logical limitations.


Actual work (and why it doesn’t happen)…

There is the occasional rare day when I can sit down and focus on one or two major projects and feel like I’ve mushed the ball forward even if it’s only by a little bit. Today wasn’t that day. The fact is, I don’t remember much of what I worked on today. I try very hard to do a mental dump on my way out the door in an effort to not drag any additional jackassery back across the river with me at the end of the day. Maintaining that massive, immutable, and nearly impenetrable wall between work and “everything else” might just be the most important thing I do on a daily basis. It’s the preserver of my sanity.

I vaguely remember that at one point or another today Outlook tried to trick me into a meeting I didn’t need to go to, and someone wanted me to fix a broken folding table, and there was a very serious discussion about where to store 30 outdoor umbrellas for the winter, and picking 8 people to take a bus ride to DC next week fell squarely on my desk. Those are exactly the kinds of things that end up being the reason actual work ends up being so often late, halfassed, or just completely blown off. You’re just going to have to trust me when I saw it’s almost never intentional.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some of my real work done… but I’m not overly optimistic. Some week’s just go like that. Although past performance is not a guarantee of future results, it’s often a healthy indicator. With this week so far as a guide, the best I’ll likely be able to manage is keeping my head down and trudging on towards the weekend. At least it’s no longer in any way surprising that this is how the “real world” works.

How it starts…

I’ve often wondered how it is that old people lose touch with technology – whether that’s the eternal flashing 12:00 of a generation of VCRs to or the firm instance that GPS will never take the place of a glovebox full of paper maps.

Once upon a time, I could build my own computer. Sure, I bought the components off the shelf and wasn’t making my own chips or anything, but I knew the specs I wanted, knew where to order them, and was able to slap the whole bit together into a functioning PC. I haven’t tried (or really even been tempted) to do that since the late 1990s. It stopped being a cost effective use of time. Easier to buy the whole rig off the shelf and go to work.

This afternoon I finally accepted that maybe it was time to update my iPhone playlists – that I probably haven’t substantively changed since the days when I had a Memphis address. First things first, it almost feels like with the bevy of streaming services available now, the whole idea of having a self-curated playlist may be a little old fashioned. It’s like having a bookshelf full of CDs or 45s. Its existence is a throwback to an earlier time. That’s when the first light of recognition came on – the way I like my media delivered is on the verge of being utterly overcome by the march of progress. I like having my “own” copy of my music – even if it’s just a digital representation. I made it from cassette tapes to CDs to mp3s and Winamp skins, to iTunes, but after four format changes, it seems I’m beginning to resist the onrushing future.

I wonder if this is how it starts to go off the rails for me. Am I going to wake up some morning in 2045 and wonder why I can’t make my 20 year old Mac Mini work. Are printers going to someday be as rare as 8-track players? Is this where tech abandons me to the future as I grow more and more entrenched with only the technologies that I fully understand?

I don’t want to be that guy who thinks of every device as a damned infernal contraption. There’s some way to head that off, right? Some magic bullet that will let us stay attuned to what the kids these days are up to?

I’m not ready to live in a world where the best device I ever bought is one I have already.

A little less moldy…

It’s a little less moldy here at Casa de Jeff tonight. The mold remediation company was here today. They appear to have done all the right things so far. The offending drywall was cut out, fungicide was sprayed, and things are airing out as we speak. A cursory (and completely uneducated) look around doesn’t appear to show any mold intrusion into the wood. This is a good thing and makes me at least a little optimistic that soon the drywall will be back up and I’ll be able to finish shoving stuff around the basement and make it into something approaching usable space… or at least let it be halfway organized storage.

With starting back to work this week, I have to confess that I haven’t made any real progress on sprucing things up here or even putting much more away. That seems like something that’s going to be reduced to a box-at-a-time pace for the foreseeable future. I’d at least like to have everything upstairs finished. The basement can be out of site and out of mind almost indefinitely, but the real living space still needs some work. I should probably knock off the blogging and get back after it.

That’s progress…

I had a vague hope for most of the day that the powers that be would intercede and pass the word before close of business. It would have been nice to spend the weekend in something other than a state of definite maybe. That might over-state the situation a bit, but the clock is running and almost everything involved in this process is time sensitive. The longer it takes to square things away here, the more of a headache it’s going to be to start getting things lined up on the other end. Until they officially put a mark on the wall, I’ll remain stuck somewhere between reality and happy illusion – and there’ll be a hard limit on how far I can and can’t prepare. Can I pack every stick of stuff in the house? Sure. But I don’t know if that means I’m going to spend the next two days or two months surrounded by boxes and making dinner every night in the one saucepan that I didn’t pack. I can’t make any definitive plans to get a house full of boxes from here to there. Maybe more difficult is that I can’t start making any decisions about where I’ll be unpacking all those boxes once they get to wherever they’re going. I’m getting visions of way too many nights hanging out in a not quite mid-grade extended stay hotel. It won’t take me long to close out on this end. That’s the beauty of planning your exit for the better part of the year. The issues that are bedeviling me tonight are all about what happens after the Mayflower truck pulls away from Memphis. I know I can torch that bridge when I get to it, but for someone who lives his life by a plan, it’s the kind of uncertainty that can keep a guy up at night. If there’s any up side, it’s that I seem to have gone from being paranoid about the job itself to only being paranoid about what it’s going to take to get from here to there. That’s progress.