What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Words and their meaning. I’m all for healthy political discourse and debate, but for the love of little baby Jesus I need right wingers who want sound edgy and disdainful to stop saying “Democrat” Party when they mean the Democratic Party. It makes them sound like a particularly asinine flavor of fucking idiot. Organizations have proper names. People have proper names. Unless we’re all going to start calling ourselves members of the “Republic” Party we should go ahead and start using thoughtful discussion rather than schoolroom sophistry to make our points.

2. Extreme selfie-ing. If you jump a fence and try to pose for a selfie with a jaguar and get yourself a little bit mauled, I have no sympathy. In fact, if I were an onlooker at such an event, I would gleefully stand aside and cheer on the jaguar – looking on in joy as the penalty for stupidity was extracted with immediate violence.

3. Being oblivious and preoccupied. I was too occupied at the office to even notice that Facebook had collapsed on Wednesday and taken a large portion of the social media universe with it. I don’t mean that to imply that I wish I had been able to spend all day surfing Facebook on Instagram, though. The real reason that I’m both surprised and annoyed that this kind of major media happening passed unnoticed is that it means dumb work stuff has monopolized every fraction of available brainpower… and that’s clearly no way to spend your life.

Out of proportion…

I like to think that I’ve got a fairly reasonable sense of proportion when it comes to telling what things are important and what things aren’t. That’s true at least in my day-to-day existence where I’m responsible for things like paying the mortgage and keeping myself and three other living creatures from becoming formerly living creatures. By contrast, when I show up at the office, my sense of where things should be on the sliding scale of relative importance seems to be consistently and remarkably out of touch.

The things we choose to take issue with seem, largely, to be those things that I’d brush off as approaching insignificant – things like who sits where (not whether there are enough seats) or whether the slide background is the right shade of gray (not whether the slide conveys the appropriate information). I hope you can forgive me if I seem to have a permanent eye strain from all the rolling they do. I suppose in some universe things like that are important, but I’m not able to wrap my head around why anyone would give a damn about them. Despite years of being beaten about the head and next with this issue, I’m just not wired that way.

Believe me, I wish I could glamour myself into believing that stupid shit somehow matters. It would make being an alleged professional that much easier. As it is, I’ve just grown weary and annoyed of pretending that it does when it doesn’t. Weary an annoyed is almost always a troublesome combination because it often leaves my mouth free to engage and spew words better left as thoughts… and that rarely ends well for anyone involved.

Four little words…

There are four little words that have caused no end to the amount of grief in my life. Those words: Yes sir. Can do. Four words. Eleven letters. And almost every single pain in the ass soup sandwich starts off with them flying out of my mouth in response to some vague, but ridiculous request for something that has to happen on a vertical timeline.

Maybe the real problem here is making the mistake of showing too much – or any – competence. The minute anyone figures out that you have a knack for turning a big steaming pile into something more palatable, your fate is more or less sealed. You’re going to be a fixer for the rest of your career or until you jump to a different organization where you might win yourself the ability to play dumb for a few months before you accidentally do too much, too fast and out yourself again. Then the whole vicious cycle repeats itself.

If you happen to have a certain personality type, there’s no way to avoid it really. You’re going to be pulled in by the siren’s song of getting shit done and those four little words will jack you all sorts of up.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The real celebration…

First and foremost I’ll take this opportunity to thank the many people who reached out to me through Facebook, or text, or email, phone today. Your birthday wishes are, by me, appreciated.

In other news, while I was digging around the site today in hopes of coming up with a suitable message for the day that I haven’t tread too heavily on the previous anniversaries of my birth, I was struck by something remarkable. As it turns out, June 1st isn’t just my birthday. I know. I’m as shocked as you are to learn that anything else of importance might have happened previously on this date. I’m still a little perplexed and amazed by this particular discovery.

Today also marks ten years since publishing my very first blog post. It’s bad. I mean really bad. It’s badly written. It’s badly thought out. It’s just bad in almost every conceivable way. If you don’t believe me, you can dig it up in the archives but scrolling down to June 2006 and hitting the link, but I’m not going to link it directly because it really is just that bad. I even contemplated making the post private rather than remarking on it, but that really defeats the purpose of what I’ve been trying to do here.

Those first posts really are awful. I’m struggling to find a voice and it readily shows. Looking back across those ten years, though, what I also see is upward trajectory of improvement – tighter writing, better reasoning, and the development of ability to tell a bit of a story in just a few hundred words. Still, I like the idea that if someone were so inclined they could map the constellation of things that have rattled through my head from then to now as the posts rattled around the internet from their original home on MySpace (seriously), to Blogger, and finally here to my own site powered by WordPress.

Ten years doesn’t seem like a lot of time until I start thinking about what’s changed from then to now. Looking back on some of the things 28 year old me thought were important enough to take up blog space, 38 year old me would love to sit him down for a nice long talk. There are lots of posts I wish I hadn’t made and some others I wish I’d have had the guts not just to publish, but to nail right to the mast. I like to think I’ve learned a lot about the world around me and even more about myself over the last 2,176 posts.

So unlike many of products that reach their tenth anniversary, there won’t be a lot of changes. I’m not going to go all New Coke or tinker around with the Colonel’s secret recipe. Whatever improvements happen will be organic and develop naturally in the fullness of time. I can only hope the writing is as much improved over the second decade of blogging as it was in the first.

We’ll all have to come back in June 2026 to find out.

Say what you mean…

Here’s a little advice from your kindly Uncle Jeff: Don’t say things you don’t mean. Like when you walk by someone’s desk and they’re eating lunch don’t lead off whatever jackassery is about to flow out of your filthy pie hole with a platitude of “not meaning to interrupt your lunch.” That’s exactly what you mean to do. I know it’s what you mean to do because it’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re giving the truth a head fake and then diving on towards whatever useless drivel you intended to spew all along. If you didn’t mean to interrupt lunch your actions would have passed two basic tests: 1) You wouldn’t have come by during what is commonly referred to as “lunch time” and 2) When you saw that I was engaged in the act of eating lunch, you would have said something like “Oh hey, I see you’re eating. Give me a call when you’re done.”

Instead of that, though, you first assured me that you in fact didn’t mean to interrupt my lunch and then immediately proceeded to do the precise thing that you said you weren’t going to do. Perhaps you can see where there is an ever so slight disconnect here between words and actions. It’s no wonder everyone in this damned country has trust issues. It would have been far better for everyone involved if you had just been honest in your intentions up front. It would have saved me from making a mental note that you’re a douchecanoe who doesn’t know falsehood from truth and it would have saved me the approximately 300 words it’s going to take for me to tell the story. So really, what you’ve done is wasted my time twice today and it all could have been avoided if you would have approached, said what you needed to say, and then departed the area in as expeditious a manner as possible.

In conclusion I hope that in the future we can all dispense with the meaningless and misleading platitudes and just get on with saying whatever we were going to say in the first place. We can probably all save a shit ton of time that way.

And then on other days…

Some days, like yesterday, the words flow out like water from a geyser – pressurized and seemingly inexhaustible. Then there are the other days, when nothing at all fits; the words aren’t there. Not even the topics are there. It doesn’t matter how much backup material you’re sitting on when you can’t manage to string the narrative together. If I felt like being honest, I’d admit that those are usual the evenings when I pull out a canned post – one that’s not time sensitive – that I have pre-written and occasionally use for filler when life intervenes in the writing process. As it is, though, the cupboard on those is currently bare so in the absence of good options, this is what you get.

Sometimes writing is an art. Other times it’s more like a fist fight. The fact that tonight is the latter doesn’t mean that it’s bad, just that it’s harder than it would be otherwise. That can make for good writing or it can make everything feel more than a little forced. That’s mostly the luck of the draw on any given night.

I’d like to tell you I had a better formula for how this is supposed to work, but writing, even these simple small posts, is a lot more like breathing than I want to admit even to myself. It’s just something that happens naturally without too much intervention. Sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s labored, but mostly it’s outside your direct control.

Even with the world on fire and a hundred possible things to write about, occasionally you get nothing. Since I’m not on a deadline and I’m not doing this for the money, the occasional bout of getting nothing isn’t really so bad… and since no one is asking you to pay for it, you’re mostly stuck reading it until I find something more interesting to say.

In the meantime, if you find yourself sitting in a cubicle and feel like chuckling at the fact workplaces everywhere are quite possibly filled with asshats of every conceivable form and style, click over and read a few posts at http://www.askamanager.org. They’re not all funny, but most of them are damned entertaining.

The wee small hours of the morning, or Fueling the beast…

Something strange happened in the wee small hours of the morning today. Just after 2AM I found myself inexplicably awake, in the company of the whirr of the overhead fan and two snoring dogs. It was as peaceful a nighttime scene as one could hope to find, but my subconscious was clearly in an uproar, awake, and was rather insistent that we were going to be awake for a while.

I’m used to having ideas for the blog come at me before drifting off to sleep or maybe as I’m waking up. I make a habit of catching those ideas on my phone’s note pad. It’s jammed full of half formed ideas and concepts I may or may not ever get around to dealing with. Mostly those come in the form of a sentence or phrase I can use later, but last night came at me in a torrent of words. Judging by a daylight look, the grammar, punctuation, stray words, and general tone I can say that my subconscious isn’t much for exerting editorial control on the fly. In a few places things are so jumbled that awake me can’t even deciphered what asleep me might have been going after. Most of the rest, though, is clear enough in its intent.

It seems my subconscious wanted to wait until the dead of night to walk me through the outline of what I’ll only call the most dark, disturbingly introspective assessments of self I’ve ever experienced. I don’t suppose it should be surprising that such a thing would find outlet as one of my old fashioned blog outlines. It’s the method I use most often to give complex ideas form and structure before going on to put them down in the more narrative long form.

What I was left with early this morning was a laundry list of a sort. A list of the accumulated slights, grudges, broken hearts, and disappointments. A list of the battles lost, and lost causes yet to come, and standing stubborn against the running tide. A list of the moments of vanity, and pride, and ego stretching out further than grasp. A list of the times I’ve retreated behind my own battlements, inside myself, and what that’s cost me.

It was an all access pass to the oddities of mind that drive the fusion reactor deep at my core, that piles action upon action, cycle upon cycle, loss upon loss, victory upon victory and the hundred different dreams and fears that make me and that make me question who “me” really is at the heart of things. Is there more? Is this enough?

I’m left today finding the whole thing exhilarating, unsettling, fascinating, and horrifying in turn. Maybe that’s what it’s supposed to feel like when we get an unexpected look at what fuels the beast within… or maybe it’s just a sign of my impending mid-life crisis. If that’s the case, leaving off the heavy handedness and filling my dreams with visions of a new Corvette would have been message enough.