1. Forgetting Tuesday. So as it turns out, when I have more than two days off I lose all sense of time and do things like completely forget to write a blog post in the middle of the week. Since the chances of finding too many four-day weekends in the course of a year is slim to none, I’m not worried that this will become a regular occurrence… but really any deviation from the normal schedule is enough to make me just a little bit twitchy, especially when it’s something as built into the daily schedule as writing. Maybe we are all entitled to an occasional misfire, but I like to think my inner sense of consistency is stronger than that. Apparently it is not.
2. Luddites. I work from home one day a week. To make that possible I rely on a lot of decades-old technology such as email and the telephone to stay connected to the home office. When I discover that my normal day for working at home is going to be shanghaied because I’m “needed” at the office, that usually translates into having to have someone available to flip the slides. That’s fine. Whatever. But when you’re going to want to do things like that could you please not let me find out that the person we’re staging this meeting for will be talking to us from his car on the way to some other meeting while I drag myself in to the office to huddle around a single land line like a congress of latter-day Luddites. If only there were a fancy device that let people hear voice communication from more than once location simultaneously instead of trying to pretend we exist in a universe where the best solution is two tin cans and a bit of string.
3. The oblivious. There are any number of awkward things that can happen in the modern office. Of them, the one that annoys me the most is probably the people who have no natural sense of when a conversation has hit it’s logical conclusion. They just continue to stand there looking at you as if you’re supposed to stop the world and entertain them for whatever duration their attention span can muster. Look, even when I’m not pressed for time, I don’t want to spend any significant part of the day in idle chatter. I’m just not that social. If you’re that desperate for social interaction, hit me up on instant messenger like a normal human being. I can work with that. But please, for the love of all the gods, don’t just stand there with your arms draped over my cube wall hoping that I’m suddenly going to get chatty. And yet I’d be the asshole if I just looked directly at someone and told them to go the fuck away.
I had three long days to get a post together. I’d like to sit here and make some brilliant excuse for why it didn’t happen. The truth is I kind of completely forgot that today was actually Monday and not the second coming of Sunday. The fact that it’s Monday utterly escaped my mind is the closest thing I have to an excuse for today’s lack of pithy commentary/bitching and complaining.
If I’m painfully honest it was nice to have three consecutive days when I wasn’t particularly worried about stringing words together in something close to a coherent (and mildly entertaining) order. I’m sure all will be as normal by this time tomorrow, but just now I’m going to soak in the last of these three days and appreciate them for the unplanned break they became.
Way back in January of 2010 I was casting around for a new blog platform. Having moved the original blog over from MySpace to Blogger, I was really looking for the place on the internet that could give me a permanent home – or at least a home that’s as permanent as we make anything in the electronic world. I did my homework and tried to assess all of the potential platforms, finally landing on WordPress as the one that seemed not only to offer exactly what I needed, but the one that seemed least likely to go belly up in six months.
A few credit card payments to secure domain names and for hosting fees and *poof*, WordPress became the one stop shop for whatever words felt like they needed said on any given day. Very little has changed here in the intervening seven years. In fact the page format is almost exactly as it was when I started posting here back then. Fortunately I made a point of choosing a layout that wasn’t destined to feel like a throwback to the early days of the internet and at least to my eye it’s managed to avoid looking too terribly dated.
One of the biggest reasons I selected WordPress from the competitors was that through WordPress.org it gives you the power to control nearly every possible element of your site. Despite good intentions to learn all of those under the hood management tools, I remain stubbornly fixed at the .com version of WordPress. It’s probably time I accept that I’m never going to be the nuts and bolts designer of this place and stick to what I do at least with some marginal level of skill – putting a few simple words on a blank screen and convincing a few people a day to give them a read.
As always, I’m happy to be spending one more “big day” on WordPress with any and all who stumble across my small portion of the internet. We’re seven years in and I still feel like I’m just getting warmed up.
Today was not an unmitigated success. There were no meetings and, if I’m honest, that goes a long way towards making a day more tolerable if nothing else. Then there was the great cleaning of the inbox. Clearing out near 300 backlogged messages that had no hope of being answered felt like a win… until I then was left to ponder the hundred or so that remained and actually needed some kind of answer. I spent way more of the day plowing through those than I want to think about. The amount of time wasted on email would be spectacular if anyone ever bothered to add it all up. They won’t, of course, because no one really wants to know the answer for fear they may have to do something to make that number more reasonable.
So now I’m back to the office. They say great art comes from great pain. That could very well be true. I don’t know if “pain” is the right word here and I’m in no way vain enough to call what I’m doing art, but my best and most consistent writing almost always finds its source at the office. Sure, that could be because for five days out of every seven that’s where I spend more waking hours than anywhere else. I like to think, though, that it’s because the bureaucracy is a vast treasure trove of stories begging to be told. If I weren’t part of it, I’d have a hard time believing that anything so convoluted could even give the impression of functioning.
I’m not thrilled beyond all reasonableness to be back in my swivel chair, but for the sake of the blog it’s a good thing… and that’s as close to glass full as I’m going to be able to manage.
1. Of your peers. The laws of the United States are designed to make it at least marginally difficult to arbitrarily throw people in prison. We’re entitled to have our case tried not just before a judge, but also a jury of our peers. This week I kept my part of the civic compact by serving as a member of the county’s jury pool. I got a chance this week to see a cross section of the group whop could be called upon to serve as “peers” should I ever find myself accused. That’s the moment my faith in the judicial system was rattled. A few of our number seemed to have at least a partial clue about what was going on, but many more looked vaguely confused and distressed by the whole process. A few more were sleeping and I’m fairly sure at least one was a tweaker who showed up just to get his $20. I’ve never had copious amounts of faith in “the people” as a group… but after seeing them in person, I think I’ll be taking my chances with a judge.
2. Shock and alarm. Most of my day-to-day work is routine. Read this. Assess that. File a report on some other thing. Given the right knowledge base and a bit of critical thinking it’s not all that hard to do – and even when I get something badly wrong the collateral damage is fairly limited. There are, from time to time, some projects that I work on that could end in profound leadership embarrassment in the face of the community, our business partners, and our own workforce if they aren’t run exactly right. I can promise you that when I’ve been beating the drum that things are trending off track for months now I won’t be a bit embarrassed when they come sliding fully off the rails. I have an ass-covering paper trail that will mostly protect me when someone in the wheelhouse finally has their moment of shock and alarm.
3. Writing. I haven’t stopped writing, but at last count I have six works in progress sitting on my desktop and I’m not in love with any of them. They feel like an exercise in writing something just to keep writing. Wherever the muse resides it’s currently not near my desk and that’s something of a shame because I really want to be good at this craft. If I can’t be good, I’d at least like to be good enough… but every time I double click on one of those files and try to find the next few hundred words the struggle is very, very real. I never thought I’d miss a case of run of the mill writer’s block, but I’d talk that all day every day over ideas that are just plain bad.
This is the first night in a long time I’ve sat down at the blinking cursor and really didn’t feel like writing. Not here. Not any any of the other ongoing projects. Not in a comments section. Not anywhere. Whatever spark drives that compulsion of mine to cover a blank space with small black symbols is well out this evening… so if anything you read hear feels at all forced, it absolutely is, so you’ve got a good sense of things.
There are no particularly tragic circumstances behind the scenes. The office is settling in to its newest flavor of ridiculous. The air conditioner isn’t broken and the summer routine is in full swing. It seems possible that good things are happening on one or two other fronts as well, so it’s far from the worst of times.
Despite that, I’m just a certain kind of deep down bone tired tonight. If the beginning half of the week is any indication it’s not the kind of tired I can solve by allowing for more than my usual five or six solid hours of sleep. It’s the type I feel when I need to just turn my brain off for a while. Even though the sure fire cure is a few days laid up somewhere with palm trees and a rum economy, summer is slipping away without a vacation plan in sight, so I’ll just have to do my best to treat the ailment as best I can with small doses.
I know from experience that in a few days this too shall pass and in the meantime the only thing for it is to slug through to the other side. It’s not the elegant solution I usually like to find, but it does the trick.
Spend enough days in a row sitting through meetings where nothing is ever decided, writing emails that no one ever reads, and dreaming up good ideas that will never see the light of day and one might be forgiven for tending to adopt a healthy cynicism about their profession. In a bureaucracy where every cog has its own agenda and can through even the best laid plans off the rails, frankly I’m surprised when anything gets done at all. It’s practically a cause for celebration.
I suspect that’s why I spend so much of my “off” time doing things that can demonstrate a tangible result. Reading and writing are easy. Finish the book, draft a new chapter, and either way at the end point you have something to show for the effort. It’s measurable. I suspect it’s also why I throughly enjoy mowing the grass, running string trimmer, and cutting back another few feet of encroaching saplings. Adding two hours of physical work after eight hours of repeatedly banging your head against you desk probably isn’t everyone’s idea of good times… but it makes me unreasonably happy, even as it leads to increasing exhaustion.
In that one small way, I’ve carved a bit of order away from chaos. It’s not making the world safe for democracy, or curing polio, but it helps stave off the madness and that contribution shouldn’t be undervalued.