What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 17 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 17 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. Home cooking. Week in and week out I make variations of the same 20 or so recipes. Most of them are easy. Most of the are the living definition of comfort food. I want to branch out with more options. I mean as much as I like it, even I don’t want a roast every Sunday. I also don’t want to waste a limited amount of time, not to mention the weekly food budget, by inadvertently making something new and different that just so happens to taste like broiled shit… which is why I always end up sticking with variations on the tried and true 20. It’s a vicious cycle. 

3. Tim Hortons. For years we had the most southerly outpost of the Canadian staple coffee shop in the lobby of our building. Despite their best efforts to recover and reopen when employees started to trickle back to the office in small numbers, they didn’t survive the Great Plague. Now, Tim’s wasn’t what you’d call great, but they were tasty enough, portion sizes were decent, and they had the undeniable virtue of being right there in the building on days when it happened to be raining or when it was ten degrees with the wind blowing 20 miles per hour. I realize now that I probably didn’t appreciate them enough. I find myself missing my regular 2:00 donuts and having the option for a frozen yogurt.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 16 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 16 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. Missing motivation. You know it’s bad when I don’t even want to sit down and write. I do more reading on days like that, so it’s a bit of a trade off, but still, it’s not exactly good tidings. I’m assuming my current lack of being motivated by anything is part and parcel of the mid-winter doldrums when the yard is a mud pit, I see very little sunlight, and the temperature very rarely claws above 50 degrees. It’s about as bland a time of year as you could ask for and it can’t help, it seems, from seeping into my bones. The days, though, are ever so slightly longer than they were a month ago, so help on the way. Probably.

3. National sales tax. Republicans are currently hung up on pushing a national sales tax. If it were to, in fact, replace the current Byzantine income tax regime with a dead simple x% addition to the cost of goods and services, I could probably get behind it. What the whole program will end up being, though, is a sales tax in addition to an income tax. I mean even if, despite all odds against, Republicans manage to implement a sales tax and eliminate the income tax, does anyone really believe that some future Congress wouldn’t come back to the income tax trough so that John Q. Taxpayer ends up getting hit with both a federal sales and income tax? In the absence of a Constitutional amendment declaring for all time that income taxes are abolished, I’m a hard “no” on a national sales tax.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 15 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 15 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. Eggs. You can’t swing a dead chicken without reading or hearing a story about the price of eggs. People like eggs, you see. The current period of inflation has coincided with a months-long bird flu outbreak that has hit domestic chicken flocks particularly hard. Even if we assume that demand for eggs has been stable, there are fewer chickens laying them and therefore fewer eggs coming to market. With the product in shortage, the price has increased markedly. It’s not a plot. It’s not surprising. It’s literally the fundamental free market elements of supply and demand doing their thing to find equilibrium. One more story about the sky falling really, truly, isn’t going to make a difference.

3. Humanity. I read a lot. No shock there. This week I’ve been served up several articles about computers or AI “eclipsing” humanity. To that, I mostly offer a shrug. Look around at the masterful job we’ve done running the place as the apex species. We’re collectively like the kid that was sent to school and eats his textbook. Why not let AI run the show for a while? Do we really think it’ll make a worse hash of things or are we terrified it would do better?

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 14 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 14 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.

The GOP. It’s been a hundred years since a majority party in the House of Representatives failed to elect a Speaker on the first ballot. It’s a level of ineptitude that would be shocking if it weren’t so entirely predictable among members of what passes for the Republican Party. Government is serious business for serious people – and this slimmest of majorities has led off the 118th Congress in the most embarrassing way possible in not being able to conclude the most basic step of leading that chamber without devolving into a useless conglomeration of cockwombles. My level expectation of them being able to do anything else over the next two years is less than nil. 

The rut. Once upon a time, I use to believe that you were supposed to come back to work after time off feeling refreshed and energized. Maybe others do, but I came back from my long Christmas break no more excited or motivated than when I left. If anything, the time away left me even less enthused by the day-to-day after two weeks of doing “not work.” It’s a rut, to be sure. Uncle’s gold-plated fetters make it unlikely that any real changes are in the offing, so getting my head around this just being how I’m going to feel for at least the next 12 years is… troubling.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

It’s been an easy, work free week filled with book hunting… but there’s one thing worth mentioning. It’s the annoyance that keeps on giving and gets more and more inexplicable the longer it continues. Incompetence? Indifference? Inability? Yeah. The world may never know. So here’s the one thing in this week’s list:

AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 13 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 13 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.

The death of downtown is greatly exaggerated (probably)…

I read an article this morning that more or less decried the death of the downtown business district due to the continuing popularity of remote work. The percentages cited are hard to get around. 

The city I’m most familiar with, having spent three years commuting into DC five days a week for three years back in the early stretches of my career, it looks like the in-person workforce is about 65% of its pre-pandemic high. Back when I worked in DC, my regular commute involved a 30-minute drive, a 40-minute Metro ride on the Green Line, and a 10-minute walk. So that was an 80-minute one way trip under perfect conditions and assuming I left the apartment no later than 5 AM. That time could easily double if there was even the hint of trouble on 95, 495, or the BW Parkway. The trip home in the afternoon? I never made that in less than 90 minutes and the worst day was 3.5 hours from door to door. 

You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I’m not surprised that the average employee isn’t knocking down the doors to get back into their downtown cubicle, burn up fuel, buy expensive downtown lunch, or generally feed the beast when they don’t need to do those things as part of getting their respective jobs done. It’s not captured in any of the articles or studies I’ve read, but if the downtown businesses that supported armies of office workers are losing out, it feels intuitively like there should be a corresponding uptick in the money being spent by these workers at the shops and stores closer to home. Those are more diffuse, of course, and necessarily harder to track. They’re not the story that the big players want to tell.

The death of the great urban downtown is, I suspect, being greatly exaggerated… but maybe there really is a crack in the idea that downtown must be synonymous with gleaming office towers only occupied from 7 AM to 7 PM five days a week. There really is a better way… of course that would involve real estate investors and management companies spending some money to bridge the gap between what was and what will be. Whether they’ll want to do that instead of just paying for bitchy articles about how much better it was when office buildings were full remains to be seen.

A low-grade crud…

I went from March 2020 to December 2021 without so much as a cough. I can trace my Christmas crud last year directly to the one time I strayed out from normal habits of avoiding people. Believe me when I tell you I was good at avoiding people before COVID. After COVID, I’ve become exceptional… of course that assumes a situation where I exert some level of control over most of the variables. 

I’m in no way surprised that six weeks after “return to the office” I already find myself dealing with a low-grade crud. You wouldn’t be surprised either if you heard the general amount of background hacking, sniffling, and general complaints that “it’s probably just a cold,” floating around the cube farm on any given day.

The good news is that as long as the handy little at home tests can be trusted, it’s probably a run of the mill cold and not the Great Plague. The bad news, of course, is the only reason I’ve got a head full of anything just now is because my corner of the great green machine continues to obstinately cling to the idea that work is a place rather than an activity despite two years of evidence to the contrary.

If you’re wondering when I’ll stop being salty about this world where asses in seats continues to be a more important metric than production, well, I won’t… and I don’t even need this periodic upper respiratory reminder to keep it in the forefront of my mind.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Still waiting. Here we are 6 weeks past the “end of max telework” world 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 the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this 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. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published six weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.

2. Just a cold. I can’t tell you how many times this week I’ve heard, “oh, I know I look awful but it’s just a cold.” You’d think that over the last three years one thing we might have collectively learned is bringing your germs to an enclosed working environment maybe isn’t a great idea. But no. People are absolutely re-goddamned-diculous and operate under the illusion that this 200+ year old institution can’t possibly operate without them. It can. It has. And it will. Take your sick ass home and work from there if you think you’re that important. Jesus wept.

3. November surprise. In a surprise to no one but hard-core Republican partisans, it turns out that if you single mindedly pursue a laundry list of policies the majority of the electorate disagrees with, nominate a wide slate of candidates who redefine the phrase “sleazy politician,” and hew in lock step with a twice impeached former president who attempted to raise a rebellion against his own government, then come election day you might have a bad time of it. In a mid-term being held amidst historic inflation and economic angst, the party out of power should have walked away with big wins across the board. Republicans should have had a banner night. It turns out that policy still matters. Candidates still matter. Messaging is important. Even if the Republicans squeak out a majority in the House or Senate, this election should be a wakeup call. It probably won’t be. The true believers will double down and get even more loud and obnoxious. 

Nothing gold can stay…

The Great Plague era, for me at least, will always be remembered as a golden age. 

I estimate that I avoided driving about 40,000 miles over the last two and a half years – saving on fuel, maintenance, and general wear and tear both on the vehicles and on me too if we’re being honest. 

It was perhaps the first time in my life when being an introvert positioned me uniquely to thrive in a world that is normally built to service and reward extroversion. Staying home, hanging out with the animals, reading as many books as I could get my hands on, and doing almost all of my own cooking is almost entirely the life I was really built for. 

Most weeks for the last 30 months, I got to spend four workdays out of every five working from home. No commute, no small talk or interruptions, and not listening to the guy two cubicles over hack up a lung while suffering from “just allergies.” It was a chance to knock down whatever work was thrown my way using a brave, new approach. It feels like, for a while there, we almost embraced it. 

I’m enough of a student of history to know that no golden age ever lasts. Eventually the conditions that fuel them gives out and the world then tends to revert to the mean. I’m told that my own personal golden age now has an official expiration date… so now all that’s left is to take a few weeks and mourn the future that almost was. 

The world has been and continues to be in a rush to “get back to normal.” You’ll have to forgive me, because I just don’t see the appeal. 

The open bay petri dish…

Since March 2020, I’ve taken the reasonably prescribed precautions against the Great Plague. The regular advice to avoid crowded spaces didn’t feel particularly onerous to me. After all, avoiding crowded places has been my stock in trade for most of my adult life. It’s the kind of crisis situation I was built for.

When the bosses prioritize asses in seats, though, there’s no way to avoid the office, which is how you get a poor schlub coming in when he’s not feeling 100% and only hours later popping hot on a rapid test. That, of course, leads to the rest of us sitting around wondering if that brief conversation we had in the early hours of the morning was enough to swing us from exposed to infected. There’s no way to tell until something does or doesn’t happen, so we all just keep on keeping on.

I miss the front half of the plague experience. A positive test like this would have triggered an immediate quarantine and deep cleaning of the physical space. Anyone in the room would have been declared “exposed” and sent home to quarantine for as long as 14 days. Now guidance from the top is “Well, we just have to tell you that you may have been exposed” and an accompanying shrug.

Having been vaccinated and boosted, it’s reasonable to assume the plague isn’t going to be my cause of death. That shouldn’t be taken to mean it’s an experience I particularly want to have. Given the couple of underlying conditions I enjoy that don’t necessarily play nicely with the plague, it’s in my best interest to avoid it. If I catch this bug after two and a half years only because someone at echelons higher than reality is mired in the misguided notion that there’s anything at all I can do sitting at my desk in cubicle hell that I can’t do from my desk in the sunroom at home, there’s a fair chance I’ll absolutely lose my shit the very next time someone mentions some absolute tripe like “synergy, collaboration, and innovation” and the importance of having all the warm bodies back in an open bay petri dish.