They’re calling for shit weather tomorrow morning. On a typical day, that would have been the sign to drag my laptop home in hopes that there was some combination of liberal leave or a closure called by the Destructive Weather Team. Having another day to work at home uninterrupted by 30 ringing phones and eight or ten pop up meetings would be a godsend in terms of getting some actual work done.
Sadly, I’m the guy who’s supposed to run the meeting tomorrow – which means I need to be there to flip the slides. Because it’s not an official meeting unless someone flips slides… and we certainly can’t expect people who come to a meeting to print off their own slides or bring their own laptop so they could see the slides. If we could count on either of those things there’s no part of what needs talked about tomorrow that needs my physical presence in a blandly decorated conference room.
We’re stuck in some kind of bizarre world where we want everyone to be prepared to work from wherever they happen to be, but make in next to impossible to do so. Where it is possible, we make the processes and procedures painful to the point where most find the option unattractive.
Me? I’m a contrarian and poker of people with pointy sticks from way back. I’m already turning over plans in my head to slowly drag my team into the 21st century – and prep them for the day when I’ll be leading the discussion while wearing sweats and fuzzy slippers. Until people see working from some place other than your designated spot in the cube farm getting results, I’m afraid the bureaucracy will never get away from it’s favored mode of business as usual. I like to think I’m feisty enough on this point to lead the way by example.
1. Ice. I hate dumb stupid ice and the asshole who didn’t salt his driveway because “why bother, it’ll melt in a few days anyway. Occasionally I am a real idiot. Conveniently I was summarily punished for it so I feel balance has been restored.
2. Not doing the maths. I don’t even want to guess how many times I’ve watched someone walk to the checkout only to be rung up and announce in what appears to be complete surprise that “I don’t have that much.” Maybe some quick maths before getting to the counter would have been helpful. On any given day I’m keeping a reasonably accurate running total on two different checking accounts, three savings accounts, two brokerage accounts, one e-trade account, two IRAs, a “401(k)” type account, the Dow and S&P 500, and the spot price of gold, silver, and bitcoin. I won’t always know what those numbers are to the cent, but you can bloody well believe I’ll know if I have enough funds available to cover a cart full of whatever it is I’m trying to buy before I get to the point of sale. It isn’t about wealth or poverty. It’s about awareness and knowing the condition of all the resources you can bring to bear on the day. Situational awareness in all its many forms is your friend, kids.
3. Mr. coffee. My venerable 11 year old Mr. Coffee seems to be on his last legs. It’s mostly failing to drip through the last cup of water and when it does, it brings a quarter cup of grounds through to the carafe with it. No amount of scrubbing or spring adjustment seems to make a difference. I’m suspect of change at the very best of times… and changing something as central to my life as the coffee maker feels likely to set all my nerves twitching.
1. Looking busy. During an average year there are plenty enough times when the number of requirements arriving over the side are large and numerous enough to swamp you before you ever get a chance to close them out. The few days before Christmas are not, generally, one of those times. The real issue now is no matter how important the thing is, the people you need to provide the answers, aren’t around. Sure, you’ll make an effort to close out those things that can be closed out without needing a lot of outside input, but with that done, you’re left largely with either make work projects or simply trying to make yourself look busy. At least when I get back after the first of the year, I’ll have a beautifully set up file system already built for all of those new 2018 emails. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.
2. CNN. The day after a bill passed out of Congress giving most Americans an income tax cut, CNN’s website lead off with the banner headline “Enjoy your tax cuts while they last.” They go on to concede that “a lot of households… will see a lower tax bill in the next several years.” The article largely focuses on the expiration of many of these individual cuts by 2027 – a decade hence. The thing is, though, Congress can pretty much do whatever it wants. Tomorrow they can pass a bill making these cuts permanent. The next day they can pass a bill that changes the date they expire to a week from Tuesday. Sure, I would have loved to see the individual tax reduction provisions made permanent in the original bill, but I’m damned if I’ll reject a reduction now when balanced by what might be a decade in the future. A decade is a hell of a long time in politics – more than enough time to apply maximum pressure to our duly elected representatives to ensure the cuts they’ve made now are made permanent or replaced by better alternatives… and bird in the hand and whatnot.
3. The shortest day. We have the solstice over with now, but it’s a long, dark climb back to a point when we don’t exist as a race of mole people, traversing to and from home each day in utter darkness. I’m sure some people will wax poetic about the majesty of the shifting seasons, but I’d be happy enough stuck on high summer with its ready supply of daytime in big, beautiful 15 hour blocks.
As I sit down to start writing this, it’s just a few minutes past 8AM. There’s a roast roasting, fresh sheets are on the bed, the vacuum was run through, the creatures have been tended. Even the birds have received their ration of feed. The heavy lifting of the day is done. It’s one of the perks of waking up not far past 5AM (the other being that at such an hour the world outside is brilliantly quiet, though that’s less an issue when winter’s in the air).
Yesterday I uncovered a bottle of unremarkable champaign, sparkling wine from California if we’re to be technical, that I’d stashed in the basement at some point and promptly forgotten about. Usually, finding something in the basement wouldn’t pass for something worthy of mention, except for this morning it’s a good illustration of why I don’t mind so much the 5AM wake up call and it’s corresponding 9PM bed time.
Sunday’s aren’t always a day of rest here. I don’t know how any working person could manage to give away a whole day like that. From time to time, though, the too do list thins a bit, you find a bottle of champaign in the basement, and you get to spend Sunday morning in a comfortable corner with a good book and a mimosa while the sun streams in the window.
If it weren’t for this kind of Sunday at Fortress Jeff from time to time, I’m not at all sure how I’d tolerate Monday through Friday during an average week.
I have no idea if it’s actually going to be the darkest evening of the year or not, but it’s going to be the longest even if only by a few seconds. I post about the winter solstice just about every year knowing full well that the coldest days of winter are still a few weeks ahead. Maybe it’s important to me because I’ve always been more a worshiper of the light rather than the heat. Getting back to a schedule that feels a little less mole-like is just incredibly appealing after weeks of rising in the darkness, working in a cave, and returning home again in darkness.
The solstice at least marks where that trend starts slowly to right itself. You can say what you want about Christmas and the reason for the season, but maybe there’s just enough pagan left in me that solstice feels like something that should be a celebration. Solstice is the hope of spring and growth and warm afternoons tending the yard. The irony of the fact that I’m currently also working on a future blog post about hope and why it’s bad isn’t lost on me in the least as I type these words. Despite what I’ll soon tell you about the problematic nature of hope, for the moment, hope is going to have to be enough.
1. The Obvious. Headlines screaming “America in Deep Freeze,” or “Arctic Blast Cripples East Coast,” or “The Big Chill,” seem a bit superfluous at the moment. It’s mid-December here in the northern hemisphere. We’re right up against the winter solstice. For those who need it spelled out, that means for the next three months or so, cold is perfectly normal and should, generally, be expected. If for some reason the arrival of winter and cold weather have caught you off guard and unprepared, well, you’re an idiot. The fact that so many people are idiots, however, still does not make “it’s cold in the winter” a breaking news story.
2. Election Meddling. It’s cute that we’ve collectively decided that foreign powers meddling in a US election has raised the collective hackles of the press. Anyone familiar with their history over the last 200 years will tell you that we meddle every bit as much as the Russians. Ask the Iranians who ousted the Shah. Ask the Vietnamese about the Diem brothers. Ask any number of Latin American countries about our “helpful” deployment of Marines to ensure their elections turned out the way we wanted them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as angry about Russian interference as anyone, but for us to pretend we don’t do the exact same thing everywhere else on the planet is the height of hypocrisy.
3. Competing priorities. Given the lack of guidance I currently operate under, I’m put in a position where I have to make decisions about what problems get my attention and which ones don’t. I imagine I get it right more often than not (but that’s a complete guess since feedback is also something we don’t do). So when you stop me in the hall at the end of the day and wonder why I wasn’t in some meeting I was “supposed” to be in, there’s fair chance that time got allocated to one of the competing priorities that appeared to be more pressing. I’d be more than happy to work the issues in any order leadership sees fit if they’d just bother to tell me the flavor of the day. If they are going to leave me to my own devices, I’d mostly appreciate not getting blind sided in those rare moments when they choose to care.
The winter solstice arrives at 11:49 PM EST and with it the longest evening of the year. That means tomorrow there will be fractionally more daylight time than there was yesterday. There are still a few weeks where sunrise will keep getting later in the morning, but that will be offset by gains made in the afternoon.
This is actually the second post I wrote this evening. The first took on an altogether too bleak feel that was neither desired nor intended, but that nevertheless hung over it like a shroud. Take two, here, is an effort to redeem myself by striking a slightly less emo chord.
This time of year always reminds me of a long ago English class and Robert Frost’s melancholic snowy wood. Even now twenty years later Mr. Frost’s words and Mrs. Butler’s voice are stuck firmly in my head on nights like this.
Long, dark nights didn’t bother me much back then, but the older I get the more I find myself in favor of those languid summer nights when twilight seems to hold on for hours. They’re a long way off yet, but by morning we’ll have turned the corner – sometimes that’s enough.