What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Rapidly shifting gears. I always forget just how steep the drop off in things to do is when a big project wraps up. Between last Thursday and this Monday I went from having 600 emails in my inbox and 47 missed calls on my phone to having a whopping 6 emails in my box waiting for action and no missed calls. For months there’s this gradual acceleration. It’s almost imperceptible. Before you know it you’re charging flat out, still accelerating, over the precipice, before slamming into the wall that is “business as usual.” I’m not exactly complaining that I’m getting a chance to catch a breath, but I am surprised more people don’t strip all their gears from downshifting so fast.

2. Housebreaking in the rain. Jorah has been a dream puppy as far as housebreak is concerned. Two solid days of rain, however, were something less delightful. Squishing around the yard every few hours in a steady fifty degree rain with wet feet is one of the joys of pet ownership that would surely make any dog owner question why the hell they decided to add a member to their family in the first place.

3. Playing bouncer. I spent a few hours this week checking badges and working the door to keep the riffraff out of a meeting. There’s nothing special about that – other duties as assigned and whatnot. I can turn off my brain and do as told with the best of them. It’s only later, when I put on my taxpayer hat and do some mental math about how much I made during my tenure as an up jumped bouncer, my eyes sort of roll back into my head. I have my own opinions of course, but I’ll leave it to others to decide on the application of resources… something something mosquito and sledgehammer.

4. Alabama. What the actual hell is wrong with you cousin fucking, backwoods, holier than thou asshats? Republicans are supposed to be the part of small government and minimal intrusion into people’s personal lives. You collection of assclowns would be hard pressed to find a way to be more invasive. At least when I think the government in Annapolis is a shitshow, I can look at your statehouse and remind myself that it could be worse.

On the transient nature of management…

After sixteen years in harness, I’ve more or less lost track of the number of different first-line supervisors I’ve had. It would have to be somewhere north of 10 and even at that I feel like I could be miscounting on the low side just a bit.

The nature of the bureaucracy is that the cogs are more or less interchangeable to a certain degree. It’s perhaps even more true of management positions than those where people need to be technical experts. The fact is, though, that some bosses are just better than others. I’ve had bosses I dearly loved working for and other who I drove a third of the way across the country to get away from. The good ones are to be savored. The bad ones to be endured. The mediocre ones, well, you mostly hope they’re indifferent or are at least willing to stay the hell out of your way.

In a few weeks we’ll be getting the next new boss in my little corner of the bureaucracy – a mercifully known quantity who seems to have good pre-existing relationships with people in other corners of the cube farm who could be helpful in getting things done. It’s an infinite improvement over the grab bag possibilities of someone dropped into the role from somewhere “outside the family.”

I’ve worked for the current boss off and on for various lengths of time over the last four years – making him probably the boss I’ve worked longest for during my entire run as cog #2674323 in this Large Bureaucratic Organization. Settling in with a new hand on the tiller should, be, uhhhh… interesting times for all involved.

Immediately after this small transition we’ll endure the arrival of a new Olympian high atop the org chart, so whatever rumbles and ruffles occur during changes here near the bottom will surely pale to insignificance when compared to the mayhem and chaos that sort of transition can carry with it… so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Crate…

I worked from home half a day today (the other half given over to Jorah’s first vet visit). Most of the work today consisted of cleaning three days of backlog email out of my inbox, so it wasn’t exactly heavy lifting. It did, however, mean that I had to do some reading for comprehension… and that trying to keep one eye on that and one on a creature who’s still trying to learn the house rules was going to end in badness on both sides.

Enter the crate. It’s a big crate. Probably sized for something more like a great dane than a 35 pound puppy. I was determined to let our new boy ride out the four hours unassisted – but next to a very relaxed lab who loves sleeping all day while I’m at the office. Aside from the a few short bouts of whining about 90 minutes in, Jorah took to the experience as well as anyone could expect.

It’s going to be harder – on both me and him – when I actually head back to the office and he’s left to his own devices for the entire day. I know that means housebreaking is most likely going to take a giant step backwards… but balanced against having an entire room chewed to hell by a pup who has no problem vaulting gates or scaling exercise pens, it’s just going to have to be what it is.

I’ll be able to check in during the day with the laundry / dog room camera, but I’m really not sure if knowing I can follow along the entire day live on camera is something that will make the whole experience worse or better. Worse, I assume, since it means being able to see everything but do absolutely nothing about it. That level of voyeurism is decidedly not one of my favorite things.

Dog people of the internet…

So I was reading things on the internet. Yeah, I know I should just stop right there. For all the good that it can provide, the loudest voices on the internet seem to be those of judgmental twats who have nothing better to do than tell everyone exactly how they should be living and why they’re wrong if they don’t.

Hell, maybe I’m one of them, but at least I’m polite enough to keep my judgements safely locked up here so that people have to make an effort to get to them instead of just spewing myself all over Reddit.

It’s been over a decade since I had a puppy in the house. Most care and feeding issues are falling-off-a-log kind of things, but I wanted to get a better feel for how working adults take care of their new canine friends when they, you know, have to go to the job that pays the bills and buys the kibble.

According to a never ending list of sanctimonious asshats on Reddit, the only acceptable things for someone employed to do is to 1) Quit your job and stay home 24/7; 2) Move in with someone who is willing to stay home 24/7; 3) Hire a dog walker to come to your house twice a day for 30 minutes while you’re at work; or 4) Enroll your new dog in day care.

Any deviation from one of those four approved courses of action will find you condemned as a heretic and only slightly better than someone who raises fighting dogs for a living.

But, look, here’s the thing… I’m old enough to remember a time when dog wakers were a thing that only the rare city yuppies and the occasional actor or actress had. I’m old enough to remember a time when there was no such thing as “doggy daycare.” And I’m certainly old and experienced enough to know that having a job and having a dog is not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the dog people of the internet tell you.

There’s very little that I won’t do for my animals and I agree that in an ideal world, dogs would have their people with them all day every day and be able to come and go as they please. We, of course, live in the real world, where on average the dog who has to spend a little more time between bathroom breaks indoors instead of out is still far ahead of the one who spends months or years sitting in a shelter. The dog people of the internet, though, do seem to have an unhealthy fixation with the ideal.

It’s one of many cases where I am happy to invite the people of the internet to bugger right off.

In which I oppose mandatory fun…

Mandatory fun is bad. I don’t mean it’s badly intentioned. I’m sure whatever powers that be inflict mandatory fun on the rest of us probably think they’re doing something positive, if not exactly something wonderful. It just seems to me that the forced joviality of people who work together pretending to be the best of friends feels awful in just about every possible way. Consider, if you will, when was the last time you had an unadulterated good time at the office Christmas party or the company picnic? For the record, I don’t consider going because you need to “make an appearance” or because it’s slightly better than spending those hours at your desk to qualify as fun in this instance.

Most people make at least some small effort to have a firewall between what they do for fun and what they do to make a living. Maybe there was a time long ago, before everyone was an easily offended, uptight stick in the mud, when these official organizational celebrations were good times. Today they mostly feel like a formality – just a small nod to that bygone era. Most people will go along with it, of course, because making waves is rarely the best tactic to endear yourself to whatever bosses you serve. Go along. Get along. It’s one of the oldest stories in the working world. 

If you insist on mandatory fun, my recommendation is to keep it simple. Make sure there’s lots of food, back up a beer truck, and maybe hire a band. Let people self-select with what and who they choose to engage. That’s probably about as good a situation as you’re likely to manufacture. There are ways to screw that up, though. You could overlay the lukewarm pay as you go food with several mandatory training events and dispense with the beer truck, thus ensuring that even the illusion of a “fun day away from the office” is shattered completely. 

It’s easy in cases like this to blame the planners… but I can reasonably assure you that they want to deliver a better product than the specified and implied guidance allows. Experience tells me that the real fault in these cases lies in the realm of leadership and the good idea fairies that dwell with them. I mean if someone really was all that interested in boosting my morale, all they’d have to do was give me a couple of hours off and point me towards the closest used book shop. I don’t expect there would be a line for that, but then again I don’t subscribe to the idea that a good time necessarily has to be a team activity. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

One of the issues I have with Large Important Events is that they tend to take months to pull together properly. By the time they arrive, you’re running flat out just to keep from falling behind. They chew up months and it feels like you should be entitled to a big ending.

Independence Day ends with fireworks. A public execution ends with a hanging on the courthouse lawn. There’s a final moment of something that marks the definitive end point.

With us, though, it’s just a whole lot of build up with no pay off. There’s no money shot. The end just kind of dribbles out… and those who endured it limp home with whatever you call the event planning version blue balls.

Tales of a marginally talented amateur…

Now it’s important to remember that when it comes to event planning at the very best I am nothing more than a marginally talented amateur. I’m reasonably good at establishing requirements and subcontracting them out to people who can do that actual work. What I lack in any meaningful way is the patience requisite to answering the same five questions 437 times after providing that information in a read ahead packet that clearly no one bothered to read.

The real problem, though, isn’t necessarily who did or didn’t read what… it’s that although I’m tolerable good at identifying requirements, I really have no actual control over them. In the parlance of my employer, I’m not a “decision maker,” and frankly, as I’ve said loudly and often, I don’t want to be one of those. The most significant “wheels coming off” moments I find at an event of any size aren’t actually a result of poor planning or staff work so much as they’re the result of one of the deciders being visited by the Good Idea Fairy twelve hours or so before the damned thing starts.

The result is that plans are made, flyers are printed, and advertising is done… and the new thing that’s being injected starts looking a lot like an after-thought instead of something that was carefully considered and added because it created value in the week’s proceedings.

But since I’m just a guy sitting here, what the hell do I know?