Keeping holiday time…

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.

Shouting into the void…

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 sad bloody hash…

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. 

Like magic…

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.

It’s one or the other…

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. 

I’m pretty sure it’s a racket…

Tomorrow will start the first of a series of various doctor visits and lab appointments that I really had been hoping would somehow magically fall off my calendar. I’m sure they’re all very important and will reveal many interesting and entertaining things, but it’s a level of shit to do and sick leave I don’t want to burn off that’s just uninspiring.

A month or two ago I got myself an endocrinologist, who seems nice enough, but is determined to build her own history rather than just going on the eleven years of records I sent over from Johns Hopkins. So, over the next six to eight weeks, I’ve got multiple appointments lined up for basic blood work, thyroid testing, pituitary testing, a “nutrition assessment,” and one or two other things I’ve got noted as “Endo Appointment – UNK” on the calendar. I assume they’ll tell me what I’m there for. At this point, it only feels like I’m missing tests for color blindness and hearing.

The good news, I suppose, is as far as I know there’s nothing new actually “wrong” with me. The doc didn’t appear alarmed and used phrases like “establish a baseline.” Since I feel fine, my numbers are basically hanging around where they have been for a decade, and they didn’t immediately throw me in the hospital to conduct these tests, I’m proceeding from the assumption that this is either a) standard procedure for bringing a new patient into the practice or b) an unsophisticated scam to bleed me for copays while charging Blue Cross a small fortune. Either one feels entirely possible at this point – and both feel like some kind of a racket.

Now that the bathroom is in spitting distance of being done, I thought maybe this would be the time to get back to the series of dermatologist appointments I paused in the spring. Turns out that was wildly optimistic. Maybe I’ll see him again in November… assuming there isn’t some other ridiculous thing that comes up between now and then.

The Bathroom Report: Day 82

We held the “pre-completion” conference on Tuesday afternoon. It basically consisted of the project manager stopping by so I could point at the things I had already told them via email last week. The net result is that I once again confirmed that the toilet paper holder, towel rod, and mirrors need to be installed. The backsplash, top of the shower tile, and shower dress plates all need to have silicone caulk applied. Finally, I confirmed again that the hand-held shower leaks at the supply tie in. I’ve lost track if this is the second or third week of repeating these few items.

The PM took his notes and pictures back to the office to confer with the scheduler, and theoretically work up a final schedule to finish off this project. The plumber, to his credit, was here the very next day and checked his items off the list. That just leaves the guy who does the silicone and hangs the hardware.

You wouldn’t think knocking off what’s maybe an hour’s work would drag into the 3rd or 4th week, but here we are. I’ll concede that calling it a 30-day project was probably over optimistic at the start, but the fact that we’re now running hard towards day 90 feels awfully excessive. With a little more project management, this effort could have been done, finished, and over in sixty days even allowing for the two week delay caused by the county’s johnny-on-the-spot inspection regime.

As of early this afternoon, the contractor says they’ll have the work finished next Friday morning, so we’ll give it another seven days from here. Maybe I’ll be able to report the mission accomplished next week when I post the update for Project Day 89. Even then it’ll have an asterisk because being well and truly “accomplished” will also depend entirely on the final county inspection.

If it feels like I’ve completely lost patience with this project, rest assured it’s because I have.

Getting clean…

Before I get into this, I want the record to show that I keep a reasonably clean and tidy home. Despite the popular perception that men can’t or won’t do the domestic work to keep a house in order – whether it’s cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry – I have, since the year of our lord two thousand, done all of those things myself. Maybe I misunderstood the assignment in interpreting what was men’s work versus women’s work. I’ve just lumped them all in the same category as cutting the grass and getting the oil changed – otherwise known as things that need to be done if you’re going to be a functioning adult.

As time has rolled on, I’ll admit I’ve farmed some of those things out. I use to change my own oil. I use to muddle my own way through appliance repairs. None of that was a point of personal pride so much as it was a function of not wanting to spend money beyond what was absolutely necessary to get the job done. Over time, promotions and time in grade accrued. Deep into middle age now, I’ve reached the inevitable conclusion that time rather than money is my most limited resource – too limited to spend hours of a Saturday and Sunday doing things I don’t particularly enjoy simply because they must be done.

With that in mind, I’ve been making a conscious effort to offload projects to professionals. The bathroom renovation has helped me build a roster of plumbers, electricians, and painters to go along with the guys who clean the gutters, handle appliance repair, and do the heavy lifting on the spring landscaping. Could I do most of those things myself? Sure. It’s just not how I want to spend an increasingly limited amount of time.

After a decade or more of threatening it, I’ve finally pulled the trigger on hiring someone to come in a couple of times a month to keep up with the deep cleaning. Running the vacuum or dusting is easy enough to manage, but there are things I loathe – like cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing floors, and wiping down baseboards. The inevitable result is those things got deferred, often repeatedly. When they did eventually get done, it was always harder and took longer than it would have otherwise. So, I’m going to see about letting someone else keep up with it for a while and decide if having perfect strangers loose in the house is the alternative I can live with or if that proves to be a bridge too far.

Wednesday afternoon, I’ll decamp temporarily from my normal telework position in the sunroom to a small desk I keep back in the tortoise room and let the cleaners have at it. After that we’ll sort out details on how often and for how long I need to plan on them being here going forward. It’s probably not the best financial decision I’ve ever made, but there’s really no telling how having a truly clean house a few times a month will improve my overall mood. This one might not stick, but I’ve absolutely reached the point where I’m more than willing to give it a try.

Return from a wasted week off…

After a week off that was decidedly not a vacation, I’m back to work. Admittedly, it’s working from home, so it’s not nearly as onerous as it could be, but I wasn’t in any way ready to come back to the world of answering emails, fighting online systems, and generally being a productive and responsible adult.

Look, there’s nothing inherently bad about my particular job. I’m not out there laying asphalt in 100-degree heat or slinging hay bales into the loft. I’ve got a decent chair, a good desk, and a couple of monitors that bombard me with information for eight hours every day. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s not usually particularly hard work, even if it does demand pretty close attention to detail and some higher order processing skills from time to time. 

I’ve been doing some variation of it since January 2003. By this point, there’s not much new under the sun. Sure, some of the details change. When I started, Iraq was the talk of the town. Now it’s Ukraine. Different players, same game. The broad strokes have changed very little. Do any job long enough and I suppose you’ll find a rhythm in it. 

So, I’m back at the keyboard. I’ll do the work and I’ll do it well, but I won’t pretend to be thrilled or excited or meeting a great new challenge every day. I do my part to keep the gears of the bureaucracy grinding along because I seem to have a, perhaps unfortunate, talent for it. I’m trading my time for their money and will keep after it until I hit my own magic number and don’t have to do it anymore. 

I’m most definitely a creature of habit, but this is one I’ll be happy to break out of at the first financially responsible opportunity. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Blame and credit. OK, it’s fashionable to blame Joe Biden for interest rates and inflation and gas prices and whatever else anyone believes is going off the rails at any given time. Fine. Taking the blame is an occupational hazard of being president. I think, though, we’re missing some of the up side of the current economic environment – namely that gas prices and generationally high inflation levels have apparently made backyard fireworks a budget line item that was ripe to dramatically decrease or be cut out completely for people in 2022. With only a few individual outliers, personal fireworks displays within earshot of the homestead were constrained almost exclusively to between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM on Independence Day and were dramatically smaller and less intrusive to the general peace and tranquility of the evening than they have been in previous years… so, thanks, Biden. I mean if we’re going to blame him for global economic forces at work, he might as well get some credit for the good stuff he doesn’t have any control over.

2. Time. The standard work week lasts approximately 375 hours. A week of vacation time wraps up in just short of one hour and 26 minutes. I know here are psychological reasons why we perceive the passage of time differently under various conditions, but that doesn’t make the fact any less annoying – particularly when your most recent batch of days off is quickly diminishing. It this case, perception is stupid and I hate it.

3. Religion. I’ve covered it before, but it bears repeating: I’m under no moral, ethical, or legal obligation to follow the tenants of your religion. I don’t care if you follow the old gods, the new gods, the Greek pantheon, Sol Invictus, Vishnu, Buddha, or Jesus Christ himself. Your beliefs govern the way you live your life. The minute you turn your faith into a belaying pin to cudgel others about the head and neck, no matter what peace and love you preach, I’ll oppose you loudly, at length, and with whatever force is necessary to get you to cease pummeling others with your interpretation of faith and goodness. You’d think in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty-two we might have left some of this medieval fuckery in the rear view, and yet here we are.