Meaning and subtlety…

I spent a fair amount of today screwing around with PowerPoint. It’s only worth remarking on because I do it far less often now than I did once upon a time.

There are a chosen few people who can make PowerPoint sing. They turn it into a real dark art form. They’ll add all the bells and whistles and make the thing look like the slickest sales presentation you’ve ever seen. I’ve long known that PowerPoint is a tool of the devil, but I’ve always had just a little bit of admiration for these sorcerers and their unholy works.

On my very best day, my own slide decks could best be described as “wordy.” Some people think in charts an graphs. Others think in numbers. Me? Well, I think in words. A big beautiful block of text gets the point across to me far better than any amount of razzle-dazzle you can jam into a chart.

The written word, when used correctly, is a thing of real beauty. When used in conjunction with a slide deck, even the best words are a bit of a red headed stepchild. Even with that being the case, words are still the very best way I know of conveying meaning and subtlety. In retrospect I’m not sure I managed to do that either… but there were a lot of words on the page so I suppose that counts for something.

Four hundred eighty one…

As I was fiddling around with last night’s post, I did some tangentially related digging in the archive. I was somewhat absentmindedly thinking about the overall premise for Thursday night’s regular edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week and how out of character it would be to have simply one thing standing on its own. That, inevitably, sent me scurrying down my own internet rabbit hole.

I’ve always thought of WAJTH as a static item. A blast of three very short form topics showing up each and every Thursday nearly without fail. That it consistently shows up on Thursday is true enough, but for the rest, well, memory isn’t always the best guide to what actually happened in the past.

As it turns out, over the last 481 weeks – yes, that’s nine and one quarter years of being annoyed – WAJTW has apparently evolved. The first post, way back on September 1st, 2011 covered four topics. After that, for almost a year, posts swung between four and five topics. It wasn’t until August 2012 that I seem to have adopted the standard three topic format that has dominated Thursdays ever since. Maybe it took me that long to figure out how to condense the week into the three most annoying – or at least the three most easily set to print – things that happened.

I’ve been filling up pages of this blog for so long now, that it’s easy to forget that there really is an evolution of style over time. Looking back at some of those early editions of WAJTW, I like to think I’ve made some stylistic improvements in how I get my points across. Even if they are better written, I was a little impressed with how many of the topics from those first few weeks are still things that annoy the hell out of me on a regular basis. Some things, it turns out, really are eternal.

And we’re back…

The good news, I suppose, if you happened to miss reading my daily rantings, is that I’m back. The bad news, if you’re me, of course, is also that I’m back.

I’m not upset at all to be back to blogging. It’s the fact that my having anything to say is squarely driven by being back to work after nine days off that’s the problem.

As it turns out, when I’m not spending a large portion of each day screwing around with work, I’m mostly content to putter around the house, knock off an errand or two every day, and otherwise keep myself to myself. I believe I’d be happy to keep that schedule up indefinitely. There isn’t enough time in a standard weekend to really grasp how much better those days are, but when you stack eight or nine of them in a row, the truth outs.

If all goes according to plan, I’ve got just under 14 years left in harness. I’ve occasionally wondered if the blog will survive that transition. I use to assume it would go on as long as I did. Maybe I’ll catch a second wind, but it feels just now like the whole thing could easily find it’s end precisely when the work stops. It turns out the angst and bitching is dramatically reduced by the simple expedient of doing what I want and on my own schedule rather than tinkering about with email and spreadsheets all day. I’m not sure I’ll have all that much to say when I don’t have that to fall back on.

I’d imagine that will be a good problem to have… and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

A week off…

I don’t think there’s a single week since I started blogging that I went silent for an entire seven day stretch. I’m not saying that’s going to happen this week, but I will say that I won’t be putting thumbs to keyboard unless I get some really solid motivation over the next few days.

It’s the first time since December I’ve had an entire week off and and so far I’m enjoying not having anything, including blog posts, scheduled.

If you’re desperate for reading material, feel free to dip into the archive. It runs all the way back to summer 2006 and you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy buried in there somewhere.

2020 by the numbers…

It’s been a big year at jeffreytharp.com. I mean that in just about every measurable way, because as the year closes out, views are up 52% over last year and more than doubled from 2018. 

Where do we stand, you ask?

  • 260 posts
  • 14,096 views
  • 929 likes 

Views only fell below 1,000 one month once this year, which is attributable to a change in how updates were served out to Facebook. Once I got that sorted, it was back to the proverbial races.

All things considered, that’s not a bad showing for a poky little personal blog that doesn’t have a discernable theme, does no advertising, and basically consists of me using it as a platform to bitch and complain about the utter stupidity of daily life. 

The fact that so many people have opted to come along for the ride – or just follow along to watch the shitshow – is absolutely remarkable. I’d say I’m humbled by it, but since you have been following along, surely you know better than that.

I won’t make promises of grand changes for 2021. There will be no wild rebranding or shift in focus. I fully intend to just plug along doing what I’ve been doing. Hopefully you’ll continue to like it (and recommend it to your friends for their reading pleasure). 

Some other beginnings end…

I’ve got nothing special tonight. I wish I did. The arrival of the last workday of the year is always big news around here. It’s the highlight of my anti-social season.

Coming through the door tonight, I heaved a mighty sigh of relief and it feels almost like my brain is in the process of purging a year’s worth of everything. That’s not a bad feeling, but it doesn’t lend itself to even mediocre writing. I’m not sure it lends itself to anything beyond a quiet night with a good drink.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound awful in any way.

Happy end of the work year.

Inner peace makes for dull blogging…

It’s the middle of the week, a federal holiday buried between vacation days, pouring down rain, and about a gloomy a day as you could find. Businesses are starting to close up and people are beginning to revisit the days of “safer at home” as the Great Plague surges around us. I’ve largely tuned out the 2020 presidential campaign, which I consider over, done with, and not to be gotten back to until closer to the inauguration (aside from occasionally flinging rocks at both sides via Facebook or Twitter).

Put another way, there’s absolutely nothing that I feel a compulsion to talk about today. I’ve taken great pains to make the house a perfectly comfortable retreat from the world. I’m not sure the dogs and I could hold off a Spetsnaz assault team, but for keeping to ourselves through the pandemic whether it lasts a few months or another year, we’re reasonably well set to minimize how much time we need to spend dealing with the world “out there.” 

The days, especially when untroubled by even needing to telework, do tend to blend together a bit though. If it weren’t for knowing yesterday’s vet appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, today would be more or less indistinguishable from Saturday or Monday or the day after tomorrow. I’m a dedicated creature of habit and it doesn’t particularly bother me in any way… but it does make fishing for new topics just a little problematic, which is how you end up with a stream of consciousness mess something like this one.

Fortunately, I can already predict that things will be back to normal tomorrow and you’ll get a full boat of What Annoys Jeff this Week. Some things don’t stop, regardless of how peaceful and docile the week seems. I should probably be thankful for that.

When interests overrun time…

I’d like to get back to writing. Not just blogging, which I love, of course, but proper writing – telling stories and building worlds. I won’t claim to be particularly good at it. Perhaps that’s a failure of imagination on my part, but it’s honest labor that I enjoyed.

Time, as always, is my eternal enemy. Even in the midst of a plague year there isn’t enough of it. What time there is, I spend with my nose in a book someone else wrote… Because there’s always one more thing I want to read. In fact, there’s somewhere north of 500 somethings I want to read already here, shelved, and waiting for me to get to them.

The secret to really getting things done, I’ve always suspected, is not sleeping. Although I have grown increasingly fond of those six hours a night. I wonder how well I could get by on a little less. given my already surly mood, the answer is probably “not well.”

At some point the only reasonable thing to do is accept that X number of interests don’t fit into Y amount of time and descope where I’m trying to spend my hours. It makes perfect sense, but I’m not quite ready to make that decision. Maybe I’ll never be… and maybe that’s the point.  

You ask, I answer…

It pains me to admit this, but a lot of what drives this blog is the need to talk about the people and situations I find myself dealing with at the office. With working from home mostly being the order of the day, I find myself with a significantly reduced level of angst and agitation. Unfortunately that also leaves me with far fewer topics than I usually have knocking around as things to talk about.

So this is where you come in. As we do from time to time, I’m throwing the doors open and inviting you to ask me anything. Is there something you’re dying to know? Is there a topic you think deserves my personal narrative treatment? Do you just want me to sweat out something I’d never even considered writing about? This is your shot.

I’m not going to get hung up on format or directions. Comment directly on this post, leave a comment on Facebook, tweet me, send an email or direct message. I’ll even keep your identity confidential if you’d like. I’m trying to keep this easy for you and interesting for me after all, an anonymity often makes for a more interesting question.

Fire away. The sooner you tell me what’s on your mind, the sooner I’ll be able to give you some kind of half-assed answer.

What I learned this week…

This week was a series of reaffirmations rather than a true voyage of discovery. I stumbled along with many of the old standards – especially the knowledge that it’s a waste of time and effort to pretend that anything that seems like a priority to you will be a priority to anyone else… especially those inside the decision making loop.

I did learn one big thing this week, though. And that’s the the spell check on gmail sometimes does’t work if you don’t safe the email before checking it… which is something I know now because of the absolutely god awful spelling throughout last night’s post.

Sigh.