1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 24 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. I’m sure someone could make the case that there’s enough blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 24 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing to deliver for their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) and for continuing to stand in the way like some bloody great, utterly misguided roadblock. No one’s interest is served by their continued intransigence. The elected “leaders” of AFGE Local 1904 should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.
2. Scheduling. Short of hiring an assistant there simply isn’t a mathematical way to give Anya her medication as scheduled on days when I can’t avoid being in the office. I suppose I could take a two hour lunch every day and double my commute to two 40 mile round trips a day. Maybe I could do that for a week or two, but if the meds end up running for a month? Longer? Yeah. No. I’m fairly fanatical about getting these guys the best care I can find, but after all these years and all these animals, I’ve never cracked the code on how the hell to give them medicine every eight hours, or worse, god forbid, every six. At least three times a week there’s a middle-of-the-day dose that just doesn’t happen, so if you’ve worked out a solution, I’m all ears.
3. Russia. Are we really supposed to take a country that rolls out 60-year-old tanks to replace their “modern” armor lost in combat and then uses a manned fighter jet to sideswipe an unmanned drone seriously as a country? That’s before we even consider their questionable standing as a regional power, let alone their once held status as one of the world’s two superpowers. The Russians, like the Soviets before them, have always been a little bit “different.” Maybe it’s just me, but lately the tired old antics of the ailing Russian bear seem to make it much more an object of mockery and scorn than any kind of fear or intimidation. If they haven’t been doing the work to maintain even their most basic equipment in fighting shape, I’m left to wonder what are the chances they’ve had the time, expertise, and money to maintain anything more than the illusion of a strategic deterrence force.
I’ve got an appointment tomorrow afternoon to meet some local shelter cats. Hershel had an iconic personality and I’m not under the illusion that he’s in any way replicable or replaceable. I’m going to miss him every day. Likewise, over the last two weeks, I’ve also missed the general presence of a cat in the house – chittering at the birds, the thump of its landing from some high place, and the pitter patter of little floof-covered feet on wood floors in the small hours of the morning.
It could be I’m rushing through this, but I’ve found that with most activities, if you wait for a good time, the time never comes. Besides, having a house full of cat stuff with no cat in it, while the shelter is filled with cats with no stuff, feels just a little bit ridiculous. If it’s going to happen eventually, maybe getting it done early is best.
The real test, of course, is the resident dog. Jorah, from the time he arrived, was a Hershel super-fan. They paled around together when Maggie was too old and sick to be much interested in playing. Now, whether his love of cats was a one off or whether it’s a transferrable feature, remains to be seen. I need Jorah to be tolerant and a cat-to-be-named later that’s fearless. Maybe that happens tomorrow and maybe it doesn’t.
Even if I’m moving fast, I’m not especially in a rush. I’ve been very lucky over the years that most of the critters who’ve shared my home have picked me instead of the other way around. All that’s left now is to see if we can coax lightning to strike one more time.
A hundred years ago when Henry had Model T’s sliding off the assembly line at River Rouge, the standard 8-hour work day made some kind of sense. That line ran at a steady clip for 8 hours and each person performed X task or attached Y widget. One task necessarily had to follow the other and it all needed to be synchronous.
Easily one of the most farcical things in the world is the idea that assembly line techniques should be applied to working with information. As a desk jockey, my work is annoying but synchronous. A large portion of the things I touch over the course of the day depend on input from one or more people who may a) be out of the office; b) have other competing or higher priority issues; c) need to gather additional information from one or more other people; or d) have retired on duty and don’t give a rat’s ass who needs what or when. As often as not, there’s no particular order of operations because Task A isn’t necessarily reliant on Task B being all the way done.
In spite of the work being largely asynchronous, my work day is a regularly scheduled 8.5 hours. The hours are more or less fixed. And you can count on one hand the number of days I’ve worked in the last 20 years that have included a full 8 hours of production. On my best days, an easy two or more hours is pissed away just by waiting for other people to do something or provide some information. On days that are not the absolute best, productive time might be just one or two hours with the rest being lost in the sauce.
The real ridiculous bit of this is that regardless of whether time is productive or not, the expectation is that you’re mostly at your desk for the duration. It feeds the age-old illusion that the appearance of work is far more important than the reality of being productive, in spite of any logic to the contrary.
It seems to me that once you’ve cleared the deck of the day’s required work – whether that took you three hours or eight, your day should be pretty much done; Congratulations! You’ve won at working today. Get on outta here. The notion, most often held by those of the managerial persuasion, that people with time on their hands should cast around looking to pick up work from someone else is patently ridiculous. It’s a sure path to end up not just being assigned your work, but also some of the workload for two or three of the local office slugs. Instead, by common consent, what really happens is we stay firmly ensconced at our desks providing the illusion of productivity, but being 300 posts deep in r/AmItheAsshole.
Look, people are going to abuse whatever system you put in place. We seem to be hard wired to get away with whatever we can get away with. All I’m saying is that applying 1920’s industrial management principles to an information workforce in the 2020’s might not be getting anyone the best bang for their buck… but it’s the path of least resistance, so here we are.
I spent most of the day mulling over how it could possibly have been Monday again already. I suppose it comes fast when the weekend lasts approximately 37 minutes. I made my usual and customary early run to the local grocery store, stopped at Lowe’s to resupply on bird seed, and then made my way home to pull up the drawbridge. It’s the same basic rhythm that’s ruled life here since the earliest days of 2020.
It was a weekend filled with reading, cooking, and generally puttering around the house with the animals. The last person I had to contend with face to face was the supermarket cashier. Unless something slips from the rails, she’ll have been the last person I see “in person” until the next time I wander in to the office. It’s a real thing of beauty if one of your big objectives is not dealing with the general public unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The consequence, it seems, of being entirely pleased and satisfied with the state of things is that these glorious “off” days is the perceived speed at which they pass. Days feel like they’ve become hours – like there’s barely a pause between Friday and Monday.
My question, then, is there some way to consciously slow it down? Do I have to fill the weekend with activities I loathe to give the impression that I’ve gotten a full 48 hours? What’s it going to take to make weekends feel like more than a speed bump on the route to Monday? There must be a secret… and I need it.
1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 12 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 12 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) for not getting this shit done.
2. Cold. Yes, I know it’s winter. There may have been a time when I literally walked uphill in the snow to go to school (thanks FSU), but the intervening decades have left me out of practice and utterly stripped of whatever native ability to embrace this kind of weather that I developed in my youth. I’m not saying I want it to be perennially 75 and sunny like in southern California, but don’t expect me to appreciates lows in the single digits and wind chills plummeting well below that. Winter is absolutely the dumbest season.
3. Perception. Being that it’s now Thursday, I’ve been off for almost a week now. It feels like approximately 37 minutes have elapsed. I’ve done a bit of book hunting, punched holes in big sheets of paper, and tended to a few other odds and ends that needed doing… and the days are just screaming by in a blur. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s a good problem to have, but I wish a week off felt even half as long as the standard week at work.
It’s that time of year again. In the last few days of run up to Thanksgiving, it’s obvious that no one’s got their heart in it; Even those that are here aren’t really here. Sure, physically some of us are banging around the office, but everyone is somewhere else in their own mind – tucking in to a proper holiday dinner, Black Friday shopping, or generally being anywhere other than cubicle hell.
Next week everyone will trickle back. There won’t be enough of us to pretend it’s a flood. There’s too much leave to be taken between now and the end of the year. Like dragons, we hoard it just for the joy of seeing that vast pile of time burned in a conflagration roaring across the closing weeks of the year.
Sure, there will still be a few of the bosses who want to pretend that it’s business as usual and everything is getting done. But the rest of us will know better. The five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are a land out of time. To fight against it in any but the most dire circumstances is the height of folly and you’ll never convince me otherwise.
Even now, a few days before Thanksgiving, I can feel the inexorable draw of Holiday Time. And that’s the real magic of the season.
I’m throttling down on social media. Over the last few days, I’ve slashed and burned through Twitter to drop a lot of follows and focus in the content I want to see. Instagram was already kind of a dead letter for me after their last update. If I have to go through multiple convolutions to see people I chose to follow, versus those you want me to see, your app has very limited utility for me.
Finally, I turned my attention to Facebook and deactivated an old page I had set up when I was doing a lot more writing than reading. If anyone was following my lack of updates over there, sorry about that. I should have killed off that page a long time ago, but it’s done now. My personal Facebook page could probably use a good “friends” trimming too, but I’ll leave that effort for my next fit of streamlining and trying to make my social media footprint more useful. At least in its present form, Facebook has the advantage of being filled with people I know – or those I’ve known in years gone by. I’m less inclined to do any wholesale cleaving there… for the moment.
I’ve been looking at Mastodon for the last week or two. I like the concept, but don’t particularly want to make the jump to add yet another platform unless Elon’s fuckery on Twitter just gets to be too much to bear… or he collapses the entire company, which given his performance over the last couple of days doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of the possible.
Look, I remain a big fan of social media. It’s given me insights and let me talk to people there’s no chance I’d have ever encountered organically. I’m never going to be one of these people who abandons the internet, tosses their cell phone in the sea, and proclaims themselves “free.” I find there is plenty of useful bits left even with vocal minority of users trying to suck up all available oxygen in the room. Still, I seem to be at a crossroads in terms of how I consume my media – and I’ll be much more purposeful going forward with where and on whom I allocate time and attention.
Not to worry, though, I’m sure I’ll still populate Facebook with my stream of consciousness rantings. There’s nothing I enjoy more, after all, than a good shout into the void.
A million years ago when I was a teacher for about 30 minutes, I was a dues paying member of the local union. I don’t remember how much the dues were, but it must have been pretty nominal if I was willing to part with it when I was making something like $2,400 a month. Part of the deal there was that the union was responsible for negotiating our salary and benefits package. Outside of that, my engagement with them was pretty minimal.
For most if not all of my career as a cog in Uncle’s great green machine, I’ve also been nominally superintended by one union or another. The difference here, of course, is that none of these unions are able to negotiate pay or benefits or much of anything that really makes a strong case for sending them money every other week. In 20 years, the total number of times I’ve needed anything from a union is precisely zero point zero. Other than the few run-ins I’ve had with them complaining about me for taking up whole swaths of the parking lot with giant tents every April there for a few years, I simply haven’t had any reason or desire to deal with them.
After three weeks of wondering why no one has heard anything about when or if the new and improved telework program will be rolling out, I finally decided to reach out directly to the leadership of our local union. I sent over a perfectly professional inquiry about why we hadn’t heard a word about it, what the holdup is, and when it’s expected to be resolved. It’s certainly not as if it isn’t a point of conversation around the water cooler every single day at this point.
I’ll be honest here, I got the sense that the union official who responded either didn’t appreciate the specific questions, didn’t appreciate being questioned in general, or maybe he’d just gotten tired of being asked the same thing 100 times a week. His response did throw in one of my favorite old saws that anyone who’s been around more than a few days has heard – that “we train to standard, not to time.” You can roughly translate that to mean it’s going to take as long as it takes, so quit asking.
As a professional planner I consider it one of the worst possible approaches to doing anything. In my universe, time is part of the standard. A 100% solution delivered months after it’s needed is every bit as bad and often much worse than a 50% solution delivered on time. Neither one has the desired effects when and where they’re needed. Any good planner should tell you they’re working to both time and standard, not one or the other as if they’re mutually exclusive, unrelated factors.
Basically it was a very polite invitation to go fuck myself, which I’m not especially offended by… other than wishing people would just say that up front rather than couching it in euphemism. He made his point. I made mine. I doubt either one of us feels better for the experience. As a non-dues paying employee, my opinion doesn’t carry much weight to the union’s internal deliberations, but that doesn’t mean for one moment that I’m not going to voice them whenever I feel it’s appropriate… and I haven’t seen or heard anything yet that would convince me our “representation” hasn’t made a sad bloody hash of the whole thing.
This is the third month of having someone come in and take care of the “heavy” housework – floors, bathrooms, and kitchen with a side order of regular dusting thrown in.
Once a month they show up for an hour or two and do their thing. The bathrooms and the kitchen sparkle, the dust is off the baseboards, and animal hair magically disappears from the furniture. I’ve gone from skeptic to full blown acolyte. It’s probably the only bill I pay every month that doesn’t make me wonder what, exactly, I’m getting for my money.
I think I’d still be vaguely weirded out if I were handing them a key and hoping for the best, but since they’re doing what they do while I’m happily sequestered with the dog in the back bedroom / tortoise habitat / book storage facility, it doesn’t feel sketchy at all. Maybe having bathroom contractors in and out of the house most days for three months has taken some of the edge off having strange people milling about.
I know I’ve said all of this before. I get the terrible feeling that I’m going to repeat it every month like a broken record, but it’s really just that magical.
The last month or so has felt like a street fight between dragging the bathroom renovation across the finish line, attempting to schedule some other service appointments, keeping up with a few medical appointments for me and the critters, and generally trying to keep the household running. It feels a bit like we hit a breakthrough this week. Even if there wasn’t much that ended up in the “done” pile, there was forward motion on a wide front
September is still shaping up to be a hectic couple of weeks with various home repairs, doctor’s appointments, long deferred training classes, occasionally putting in a full day of work, and taking care of everything else that needs doing week in and week out. It’s busy, but for the first time in a month or two everything doesn’t feel like a bloody fistfight for every inch of progress.
There’s a very small number of activities for which I’ll claim any special skill. Whatever I manage to get done, I’ll generally attribute more to dogged determination than raw talent. Having said that, I’m cautiously optimistic that September is ushering in a season where I’ll start seeing the payoff for a couple of months of repeatedly flinging myself against the same brick walls.
It’s either that or every damned thing is about to fly uncontrollably off the rails. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.