With my thanks…

Under any normal circumstance, Thursdays are sacrosanct and reserved exclusively for What Annoys Jeff this Week. This week, of course, has been filled with what I can only charitably describe as abnormal circumstances that cast any of the usual annoyances far into the shadows.

Instead of phoning something in, I want to use this generally largest audience of the week to say thank you to everyone who has called, emailed, sent a text, a tweet, or Facebook message over the last few days. I know I haven’t gotten back to many of you personally – the truth is, I haven’t even read the bulk of the messages yet. The last couple of days all my mental energy has been flowing deep into the reptilian section of my brain and focused on self preservation and generating emotional scar tissue. I promise I’m going to read every one of them just as soon as they don’t threaten to send me off the rails into ugly crying territory.

Winston was one of the very few creatures on earth that I loved without reservation. Based on your responses, you noticed . Please know that I was and continue to be touched beyond words by your kindness. You all helped lighten the burden of an incredibly hard day and I’ll always be grateful for that.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Looking busy. If I’m sitting at my desk intently staring at my monitor, I may not look busy in the traditional sense. Just because I don’t “look busy” it’s best to assume, however, that I am. They pay me to use my brain. It’s exhausting. It takes a lot of effort. Sadly, that effort is generally not expressed as wild flailing of arms or by performing backflips. If I’m sitting quietly and looking hard at something, just go ahead and assume I’m busy and it’s not a good time for whatever drivel you were about to spew from your filthy pie hole.

2. 2PM slowdown. Every day for weeks now my PC grinds to an agonizing crawl at almost precisely 2PM. Every. Single. Day. It’s like some kind of half-assed water torture designed to see just how far they can push a desk-bound employee before they finally snap and start bludgeoning the IT staff with an antiquated Dell Latitudes.

3. Thank you for the important work you do. It’s one of the most often platitudes offered by leaders everywhere I suspect. I’m not sure there was every a more meaningless statement devised in the English language. It’s even more farcical when you’re being thanked for spending most of the week serving no higher purpose than using your years of experience and multiple degrees to manage the calendar for an overgrown conference room. It’s a damned good thing no one came by asking what I did for the “customer” this week. I’ve been in a foul enough mood that I might slip up and tell them the truth.

Such fine company…

I’m not a big birthday celebrator. I don’t need or really want a party a cake or really any kind of a deal made about it at all. Being an introvert by nature, a lot of glad-handing and forced socialization is less like a party and more of a jail sentence. I’m uncomfortable with the singing and being singled out and the (even small) spectacle of the thing. I’ve made a studied effort at learning how to be in the action without being the center of attention. It doesn’t suit me. Frankly I’d rather just get home, throw a couple of burgers on the grill, have a beer or two and call the day mission complete.

That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to all you crazy bastards who called, emailed, texted, tweeted, or messaged me on Facebook. It didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. I’ll do my best to reach out to everyone individually over the next day or two – but in the event I inadvertently miss someone, please, for the love of God, consider this a blanket statement of appreciation.

It’s immensely gratifying to have survived another year in orbit on this strange rock – and to have had the opportunity to do so in such fine company.

Sage advice…

While I was vacillating over my home buying related decisions over the phone, my mother chimed in with some sage advice this evening. She knows me well enough to get that I’m nervous and twitchy about jumping back into the adventure of home ownership after getting caught in the 2009 meltdown. I was griping and complaining about the bills and fees that were hitting long before we even sat down at the closing table. Being who she is, mom has never shied away from asking the blunt questions, like “can you afford this?”

In the back of my mind I knew the answer. I’ve spent months crunching numbers and coming up with precisely where I need to be for the accounts to balance. I responded reflexively by ticking off the expenses that will go up, those that will go down, rattling through estimated fees and expenses from memory, covering the details of my good faith estimate, the downpayment, closing costs, and my best guess of moving expenses.

That’s when she reminded me that most people approaching 40 who run out to buy a family homestead are doing it on two incomes while I’m clawing it out on my own. A few years ago I’d have probably taken that as a sideways commentary about my lack of marriage and production of grandchildren, but we seem to be over that particular hump. Instead I took it as a reminder that I’ve basically always been a one man show – and even when it seemed that I was walking a high wire I’ve generally had the facts and figures on my side. Not to mention luck. There’s always been a healthy dose of that following me around.

Moment of doubt averted. Carry on.

Thanks mom.

A good month…

With 1,233 visits, an average of 40 visits per day, and a one day record of 148 visits, October was a good month for jeffreytharp.com. The only sure thing I’ve learned from running a blog this long is that you can never expect success. It’s best to go into each post assuming that you’re writing to satisfy an audience of one: yourself. That’s why I’m savoring the high points when they come – especially since the last record setting month was back in May 2011. What that trend tells me is that apparently people like to see ranting about work (May 2011 I was in the final stages of escaping my previous employer) and raging about government ineptitude (This past October saw the latest government shutdown and endless incidents of political asshattery).

As tempting as it is to chase that trend, I don’t think that’s what I want to spend all my time writing about. The reason I’ve never settled into a topical niche is that I tend to be interested in whatever happens to go on around me on any given day. Maybe that’s a character flaw, but it does give me wide latitude when it comes to picking topics. I very much like having latitude.

So with that said, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing around here for almost four years now. I’ll keep writing, you keep reading, and we’ll see if we can’t set a new record sooner rather than later. And because I don’t do it often enough, let me just say thanks to everyone who’s reading along at home, those who impart a snarky word from time to time, throw me a like, or even just shake your head in amazement that someone would bother to manage this much schlock on the internet. This is definitely the best non-paying job on the internet, but I still have a few surprises up my sleeve for the future so let’s go ahead and plan for the best being yet to come.

Big things in a short month…

This is the space where I had planned to rant about the sequester (again) since today is the big day. Since you’re probably as tired of hearing about it as I am of writing about it, I’m opting for a different direction entirely. Even though the republic does seem to be in a constant of financial distress, there are a few high points to the week and month that was

First, www.jeffreytharp.com broke through the 1000 visits mark for the first time in almost year. I was pretty impressed with that since February is a short month anyway. Usually we slide along here with somewhere between 600-800 hits, so adding 200+ to that is kind of a big deal. When it comes to blogging, the more shrill it gets, the better people seem to like it. There could be a lesson in there somewhere.

Second, but first in pride of place, I launched a “fan page” for what I hope is the first of at least several book ideas I’ve been kicking around for as long as I can remember. Since both blogging and writing are extreme part time gigs, neither one happens as quickly as I might like, but things are happening. Every day the plan comes just a little more into focus, another couple of hundred words hit the page, and I realize that there may actually be an audience for the things I have to say. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty damned awesome feeling.

So, in summary: 1) February was a great month; 2) Even better things are in store for March; and 3) Thanks to everyone who is reading the blog, helping edit the Field Guide, “liking” away at what they see on Facebook, and retweeting whatever random thoughts and links show up in Twitter. You guys really are the best.

Thank you…

Special thanks and much gratitude to the men and women serving in uniform today, their predecessors who stood watch before them, and countless American heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion for the ideal that a Republic could endure the shoals of history’s stormy seas. You are and have been our protectors. May your long vigil on far off shores bring us peace.