Can We All Agree That Working in an Office Really Sucks?

In the halcyon days of pre-pandemic employment, I was thought a lunatic for requesting to work from home. It was as if the current working arrangement for millions of Americans weren’t a modern invention. There’s this assumption that if you’re at home, you’re lounging around in front of the TV. Excuse me but I’m from Kansas, where working from home often means 12 to 16-hour days.

You want to know what kills my productivity? People. Commuting. Also, people.

There’s this nonfiction book I’ve been trying to write since the early 1990s. The information I needed should have been right in front of me but it wasn’t. It turns out the problem with researching someone who should have been well-known but wasn’t is that people have no idea they even existed. Go figure.

In the early aughts, I used the limited information I had to search every single person, place, and thing I could think of on the internet. Digitization of historical documents was in its infancy, however, so I mostly wound up frustrated and discouraged. The only solution at that time involved a lot of travel, which meant a lot of time away from work during a time when that wasn’t an option. Hiring professional researchers also wasn’t an option so the project ended up in a filing cabinet that was ultimately moved into storage.

I thought for several years I was just like everyone else who is “writing a book.” Even if I could get motivated to finish the damn thing, it isn’t a very interesting story. I’m not a writer. No one cares about this subject. Leave it alone.

Then 2019 happened: I sold my beige stucco box in a suburban HOA. I left a job that was an exercise in futility. I packed up my dogs and headed to Mexico. Burnout is real.

It took a while to decompress and rediscover the art of working for myself. By mid-2020, the world was locked down right as I was ready to pick up my research. As soon as I got back to Tucson this February, I was all about getting those records out of storage and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Going back to work in a traditional employer/employee scenario seemed like the logical next step but I just couldn’t do it. After researching electoral college talking points for a live hit on my porch overlooking the ocean, you cannot make me sit in a cubicle and tell me I’m not allowed to keep my cell phone on my desk. Tell that shit to a 20-year-old.

Instead, I started a C-Corp and decided to live that freelance life. I could do Human Resources consulting but a little part of my soul just died while typing this sentence. COVID-era HR work literally makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a ballpoint pen. After a few months of working on-site for a client, I’ve pretty much settled on remote-only 4eva.

The past couple years have proven it’s the work environment that kills my creativity and motivation. After 9 hours in the office plus, I dunno, another 45 minutes of commuting time, I’m done with the thinking. The last thing I want to do is break out my laptop and do more work, especially if it involves any kind of focused problem solving. On the flip side, I was up until after 3 am the other night because I had found some really interesting information and couldn’t put it down. The dog got me up at 5:15 for walkies and I was back at it as soon as we got home.

Why work at some meaningless, soul-crushing job reporting to incompetent, narcissistic asshats when you can spend your time getting paid to do something that doesn’t suck? Find a way to monetize the things you enjoy. Check out various freelance platforms; not all of them take a big chunk of your pay. You can create a gig for just about anything and don’t have to leave your house, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Speaking of which, I’m available for the next few weeks if anyone needs a researcher or copy editor. I only charge for my time when accessing subscription databases I already use. Any documents I have to order are billed at my cost. A 24-hour turnaround is usually possible if it’s a simple request. If you want me to compile your entire family tree, that’s another story. I can also provide suggestions if you’ve hit a brick wall with your own research.

Click here to send me a message. I can either reply with a link to a Fiverr gig or we can work something out directly. My rates are super reasonable…unless you expect me to leave the house. That obviously costs extra.

Sarah Palin, Jamie Dimon, and General Zepeda walked into a bar

Fact checking is exhausting, thankless work. We all hate the person who replies, “Well, ackshually…” I regret to inform you I’m about to be that person.

I was recently put in the position of defending Sarah Palin. Goddamn it. Full disclosure: I had never heard of Palin before McCain chose her as his running mate. At first glance, I liked her. Depending on the issue, I’m either conservative or libertarian (small L) and she seemed sane. Then she kept talking and two major problems continuously beat us over the head: One was that she provided cannon fodder for SNL and we mostly lost track of what she said vs what Tina Fey said. The other was our media environment rewards outrageous statements and behavior so there’s pressure to continue outdoing oneself. And Sarah did.

During a casual conversation about geopolitics and economic warfare, I was told Sarah Palin claimed she could see Russia from her front yard. I knew that claim was incorrect but I couldn’t recall the exact details. I simply had a vague awareness that 99.9% of Americans misremember the circumstances. I was told I was wrong so I grabbed my phone for a fact check. It turns out Sarah Palin made a statement which was factually accurate and Tina Fey made the statement everyone remembers during an SNL skit.

I read an article about container traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the other day that claimed “All those cargoes are then loaded onto tractor-trailers…” I realize I’m picking nits but a large volume of containers received at LA/Long Beach leave via rail. I know this because I have worked in international logistics and it’s annoying when people who are supposed to do their research write such stupid, provably wrong things. Like, you’re the reporter; Why am I doing your fucking job?

So that’s the thing. People have jobs (if they’re lucky) and lives (again, if they’re lucky). As a reporter, YOUR ONE JOB is to report facts. So maybe just do that, okay? We have neither the time nor the mental energy to fact check your work. I was raised at a newspaper and then worked at one in my younger years. So yes, I understand deadlines. I also understand that reporters don’t necessarily write their own headlines and sometimes editors don’t even review articles/op-eds before they run. I also realize lots of people are lazy procrastinators…myself included.

Side note: When I was in eighth grade, I had the misfortune of breaking/chipping/dislocating a finger when my mother was literally putting the newspaper together. That was before automagical layouts and it was a weekly paper that came out on Fridays. This meant every Thursday was hell day. So do you know what she said when I called and told her I needed her to take me to the doctor? She said, “Do you know what day it is?” I told her I did. She then asked, “Are you sure it’s broken?” I looked down at the deformity resembling a pitchfork and told her I was sure. God, she was pissed when she picked me up at practice. After my doctor reduced the dislocation, she dropped my ass off at home and GOT BACK TO WORK.

So a deadline is no excuse for careless fact errors.

I realize I’m an asshole. I used to proofread the classifieds with a red pen on my lunch break. This was in the late 90s before all the proofreaders were eliminated from budgets. If I end up in Hell, the construct will be me in a room full of paper with misspelled words and apostrophe catastrophes without a pen or other means of correcting the errors. There will be a chyron running “Your in hell” on a continuous loop.

Can we not create a meme generator that fixes the you’re/your problem? We can pluck particles off an asteroid flying in outer fucking space but products of our school system can’t comprehend contractions. We deserve everything that’s about to happen to us.

I realize I’m burying my lede a bit here but journalists have ruined their credibility by doing what they’re told by their bosses. Everything is clickbait to drive revenue and people need to eat. The most important story of our time seems boring on the surface but it could ruin all of our lives. It’s the economy, stupid. All of it. Trillions upon trillions of dollars missing from federal budgets, criminalization of innocent people trying to protect their money outside the system, illegal manipulation of markets, theft on a scale that is impossible for the brain to even visualize. Laws that are created and/or changed to benefit the people doing the stealing.

I’ve been thinking about the IRS enforcement agent who tried to convince me my career path should lead toward working for the federal government to investigate financial crimes. I’m one of those weirdos who loves to dive into a database and extract information. You hyperbolize about COVID deaths based on what you saw on Facebook and I wade through excess death stats. You say unemployment is up/down and I review BLS data collection/reporting methods. You say inflation is up/down and I remind you The Fed stopped releasing M3 data in 2006 and BLS continually changes CPI series making it extremely difficult for the average person to compare apples to apples. You tell me the government seized cash, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and real estate without the person possessing those items being convicted of a crime and I wonder ON WHAT FUCKING GROUNDS. You tell me they wouldn’t have <blank> if they weren’t up to something and I wonder when the hell expecting the Bill of Rights to exist became so revolutionary. See what I did there?

Some politicians try for a bit to expose the grift. Then they stop. Same thing happens with reporters. Corporate and government whistleblowers. Are we supposed to believe there’s no “there” there? That’s an impossible thing to ask when we’re constantly seeing massive bank settlements and indictments of low-level employees. Does Corporate America really have so many rogue MENSA masterminds working for them just out there perpetuating organized crime without detection by management? I’ve written corporate internal controls and I’ve also tried to explain time off policies to employees. Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

If that’s not your pet voter issue, then how about criminal justice reform? Are you not outraged that people suffering from mental illness and/or addiction are sitting in prison on a minor possession charge when the former Mexican Defense Minister was arrested in the US for essentially being a drug cartel operator and then we just let Mexico have him back? It’s the same story. Rules for thee but not for me. The world revolves around two things: Money and power. But muh War on Drugs!

This political three-ring circus we’ve been obsessed with for the past couple decades is a giant diversion. Remember the old saying: If you can’t spot the con, you’re the mark.

I Feel Like a Dog Trying to Ride a Donkey

I can write whatever you want. I just really need you to tell me what that is. Except for dialogue…I hate writing dialogue.

My brain feels like it’s too full of information and completely devoid of coherent thoughts at the same time. We currently have two to three show concepts (depending on how you look at them) trying to find a buyer. The fourth (or third?) will likely need to be tidied up and released online without a buyer. It’s compelling enough that it needs to be seen but it has been difficult to get producers to watch enough video to understand why that is.

My point is that I’m totally fried right now. The show concept that appears to have the best chance of making money is the one with the most complex subject matter. My job is to translate information that people with advanced degrees have difficulty understanding into something interesting and entertaining to the average person whose attention span is shrinking by the day.

Remember when The Big Bang Theory jokes went over your head? In the first season, there were several instances when I experienced a serious lag between Sheldon’s joke and my comprehension and gigglesnort. Apparently, there were quite a few viewers who never got the jokes so the writers dumbed it down. That kind of ruined it for me. So now I (a former overachiever turned college dropout) am tasked with metaphorically splitting atoms, convincing a producer people will care about splitting atoms, and figuring out how the hell to make the masses care about splitting atoms. Or something like that.

It’s obvious that I need to take a break but my brain doesn’t like allowing it when there’s so much work to be done. The subject matter is spinning on a constant loop too quickly for me to get a grip on any one piece of information. Just when I think I’ve got one, the slightest distraction completely ruins my train of thought. Incredibly, the barrio music being broadcast at maximum volume by my neighbors actually helps with this. It all has a sort of consistent happy melody that acts like a white noise machine heavy on the accordion. I just need the dogs to settle in for their post-breakfast nap so I can stare at the ocean and let the words come to me.

Small Fish…Even Smaller Pond

This is what was on my mind at 2:00 this morning.

I didn’t go to Journalism school. I’ve never worked in television. I did work at a newspaper once, though…in Accounting.

I’ve been helping with research and writing for a TV show concept and I’m 100% completely and hopelessly out of my depth.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from a pretty serious case of imposter syndrome. I know I’m not a complete moron but I also know that I swim in a relatively small pond. This project is out of my league in a major way and every word I write proves I don’t belong anywhere near it. I actually wonder what it takes for people to feel like they deserve their success. Surely there are people who aren’t complete narcissists who have a healthy sense of their accomplishments, right?

The concept has a shit ton of potential. I would watch it on purpose even if I didn’t know anyone involved with it. The last thing in the world I want is for the pitch to come off as an amateurish effort because one of the people drafting it is…well…a fucking amateur.

So I’m writing this in the middle of the night rather than getting the sleep I so desperately need or working on editing the show document.

So here’s the thing. I don’t know if it’s even a pitch or a treatment or birdcage liner because this isn’t my industry. I’m so old I still fight the double space at the end of each sentence. Like, I actually remember true carbon copies. It seems like an odd time to shake the Etch A Sketch but here we are. Today is another day and as soon as this is published, I’ll get back to it…whatever IT is.

Who the hell am I?

I was at a dinner party the other night and because I was drinking, I can’t even remember how we got on the subject of writing. I must have mentioned writing something because the next thing I heard was, “Oh, so you’re a writer?” What? No. I mumbled something about Human Resources and waited for the subject to change.

That got me thinking about labels and presumptions. I sometimes run but I am not a runner. I have owned and ridden horses but I am not a rider. Some yoga poses help my back but I am not a yogi. I’ve been writing since elementary school but I am definitely not a writer.

As I prepared for my move to Mexico, I decided I wouldn’t even think about work until after the first of the year. However, my resume was updated within a couple days of *finally* having wifi. I couldn’t help myself. Now I’m kind of stressing about just exactly what I will do. Perhaps the most logical course of action would be to look for a remote Human Resources position or do some consulting. Accounting is always a good fallback since I’ve been doing that for decades. But really? It truly is as boring as it sounds.

I just happen to be surrounded by creative people. These are people who have identities. They have won awards. I am not one of them. I’m the person who makes sure everyone gets paid accurately and on time. I create budgets and forecasts. I’m the person who impatiently waits for the creative types to get their shit together. I am painfully aware of the difference.

Leaving the US was to some an enormous leap of faith. People think I’m batshit crazy but it still feels like the sane thing to do. Now I wonder if I have another seemingly unsafe choice to make. I’ve spent a lot of time defining who I am not. This may be my chance to finally decide who I am.

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