What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Meeting prep. My feelings about meetings are fairly well known and not at all surprising. As wonderful as the average meeting is, the time wasted just sitting in them isn’t the only thing that fuels my discontent. The real problem is everyone – and I mean everyone – seems to look for excuses to have a call a meeting. It’s like what alleged professions do to kill time when they’re bored or lonely. Add to that people’s natural tendency to take Mondays and Fridays off and most meetings stack up like cordwood on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The issue then becomes the inordinate amount of time a poor simple soul then needs to spend just to find and reserve an empty room that has all the required audio/visual bells and whistles. Getting that process done from start to finish usually takes two or three times as long as the meeting itself. To add insult to injury about 30% of the time once you’ve wasted half the day just getting the room itself, the crazy bastards that set up the meeting in the first place cancel it – or worse – they change the time, which leads directly into an endless cycle of wash, rinse, and repeat. The whole thing is maddening.

2. It could be worse. People who comment “it could be worse” as a response when situations go bad clearly miss the point. Of course it could be worse. You can always hit rock bottom and then start digging. Just because you can, however, doesn’t mean you should. Just because it’s not as bad as the worst possible scenario doesn’t mean it’s good and it sure as hell not something to be chipper about. Asshat.

3. Bad investments. I bought a house in December 2007. A month later the bottom fell out of the real estate market… and then proceeded to keep falling for the next four years before leveling off. You might have heard something about it on the news for the better part of the last decade. It’s only been in the last year that there’s been any progress towards clawing back a little of that value. It’s too little, too late. Even with the barking dog neighbors on one side and the regularly evicted neighbors on the other, I liked my house. I wish I could have boxed it up and moved it north with me. Instead it’s just sitting down there being a bad investment, bleeding me a few hundred dollars at a time. As much as I hate to admit the mistake – and making permanent the loss incurred – I’m ready to call it what it is, take my lumps, and move on expeditiously. What I lose in cash flow surely will be offset by the removal of the damed albatross from around my neck.

We stand on guard for thee…

o-CANADIAN-FLAG-facebookTonight, in the face of the day’s events, I stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors to the north. This isn’t the post I intended to write tonight. It’s a post I’ve hoped to never write again – after the attacks in Spain and England, after the coldblooded killings of civilian journalists, after 13 years of hard war.

Whether this attack on Canada was the act of a single lunatic, “self radicalized” individuals, or a directed effort from those cowering further afield this is the work of terrorism. Our ability to adapt and respond to the existential threat of extremism in all of its forms, from within and without, is being tested. In attacking the great pillars of Western civilization, foreign and domestic enemies must find no purchase. They must not be allowed a foothold. They must be ripped out by root and stem and destroyed utterly.

I stand with our friends in Canada because it’s where they’ve stood when our roles were reversed. An attack on one, regardless of its source, is an attack on all.

A matter of opinion…

Yesterday I saw several social media posts decrying the administration of the current president as the “most out of control and corrupt government in history.” Now it’s fair to say I don’t agree with many of the administration’s policies, but I also know that “in 621_356_history_of_the_world_part_onehistory” covers a lot of ground and a lot of really, really bad governments.

Take for example the Soviet Union under Stalin, who purged somewhere between 1 and ten million of his own people. That’s pretty bad governance. Hitler, that other bookend of 20th century dictatorial madness had a large hand in starting a war that killed 60 million people – or a little more than 2% of the world’s population at the time. Like Stalin, that’s not a great track record. Fast forward a few years and you have Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the killing fields of another 1.5 million. The drug wars raged across Columbia in the 80s and 90s, with politicians being bought or killed by the cartels. Not the recipe you’d want for successful democratic government. The Afghani Taliban made it their mission in life to suppress dissent, create a permanent underclass based on gender, and wipe out two thousand years years of cultural history. And those are just examples from the last hundred years.

Step back to the French Revolution, the Roman Empire, the Mongols, the unification of China and you’re going to see government that behaved in ways our sensitive souls can’t really fathom. Bad as the Obama administration might seem, I think laying the mantle of “most out of control and corrupt” in the vast sweep of history might just be a touch hyperbolic. Sure, it makes a good enough sound bite, but it really discounts the fact that history goes back a long, long way.

We’re all welcomed to our own opinions, but I do wish people would limit their appeals to the blessing of history until they inform themselves on what they’re actually talking about… Otherwise you just end up sounding like an idiot to those happy few of us who didn’t fall asleep in Into to World History.

A piece of work…

Without the kind of fanfare that accompanies something like an Apple Watch or iPhone, Amazon rolled out its latest and greatest e-ink reader today. It’s been my experience that people who spend a lot of their time reading are not necessarily the wild, loud, in your face types. That the Voyage showed up lacking in heraldry and great celebration feels almost fitting for the demographic it’s intended to serve.

I haven’t had any hands on experience yet, but the reviews I’ve read tout is as a best in class e-reader. That’s not exactly a surprise considering it predecessors were mostly best in class devices themselves when they arrived. I should go on the record saying that I like my current Kindle Paperwhite. It’s not a tablet. It doesn’t even pretend to be. Its mission in life is to replicate the look of a real paper reading experience as close as possible using an electronic medium. It took me some time to get with the program, but once I did I haven’t looked back. I couldn’t tell you the last paper book I purchased for myself. Having all the books at my fingertips is simply too great a temptation to resist.

If the iPhone is the Swiss army knife of consumer electronic communications, surely Kindle is the Ka-Bar equivalent – a single fixed blade designed to do exactly one thing and to do it with savage precision. I have no doubt that the new Voyage lives up to Amazon’s well deserved reputation building the kings of the e-reader universe.

I’d have my order in already if it weren’t for one pesky detail – the $199 entry-level price point ($219 if you don’t want built in advertisements). At that price, I’m going to have to sit the upgrade out for the time being. Although Voyage is technically superior in nearly every respect to my nearly two year old first generation Paperwhite that old model is still an incredibly reliable device that’s delivering rock solid performance every day. As much as I want to I can’t find a good enough reason to put it out to pasture yet – not even with a $40 Amazon gift card thrown into the mix.

When I’m willing to hang on to two year old tech because it’s still that good, you can best believe it’s a piece of work. In the best possible way.

Third time’s the charm…

So far today I’ve sat down with every intention of blogging three times now. The first two obviously didn’t take. Hopefully the third time’s the charm. I’m not expecting much… and maybe that is, or at least should be the them for the post. Or the week. Or possibly even the month. In reality it’s probably been the theme for a lot longer than that.

The only times in my life I’ve ever really been let down where when I let expectations get the better of me. The best things have always come when I didn’t expect much at all, or more specifically when I was expecting the worst possible outcome. Surely that informs my approach to getting through the day. If you walk in expecting everything to be on its way to hell in a hand basket, often enough it is in fact heading that direction. Other times, though, it’s not and those moments come as a pleasant surprise.

If I can attribute my own warped sense of pessimism to anything, knowing where expectations most often lead is probably somewhere near the root cause. If only from the point of view of keeping my blood pressure more or less in check, the occasional pleasant surprise feels like a better idea than daily consistent disappointments. I seriously don’t know how anyone walks into a day full of optimism knowing that the its ration of shit is never more than a few minutes from hitting the fan. It seems like you’d be setting yourself up for a whole lot of unnecessary disappointment.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Standards. As a matter of principle, I never hold anyone to a higher standard than I hold myself. By the same token I don’t hold them to a lower one either. I’m many things but I do my best to avoid having hypocrite show up on that list – especially when it’s no harder a matter than maintaining just a little bit of consistency. Jaded as I am, though, I still find I can be surprised when people seem to behave with no sense of personal standards at all. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure whether it bothers me more that they do it or that I care.

2. Low Expectations. The high point of this week at the office was the arrival and unboxing of a new industrial strength shredder. I’m not even making that up. Given the volume of paper we push a heavy duty shredder isn’t a luxury item. It’s damned near an essential. An essential that we haven’t had for the last quarter of a year. It makes me a little sad to find my expectations of what constitutes a “good day” have been lowered so far that being able to turn PowerPoints into confetti now falls near the very top of the list.

3. Apple. I found myself reading through the initial reports from this afternoon’s Apple product rollout and rather than finding myself in need of selling a kidney for some new tech, I found myself mostly shrugging with something that approximated indifference. The latest iteration of iPad lacked something of the wow factor of a truly new product. The new iMac looks well enough kitted up, but not nearly enough to get me to drop $3K+ on on a desktop computer. There was nothing there that will find me leaping from bed at 3AM to make sure my pre-order is in. I know that every new product update can’t be a show stopper, but I’d have appreciated a little bit of “wow” when it comes time to deliver what should be iconic product offerings.

A lick and a promise…

We were told ebola wouldn’t come to the United States, but it did. We were told its spread was easy to prevent, but as it turns out trained medical personnel are the ones who seem to end up getting it. The whole issue is a grand demonstration of one of the major problems with politicians. In their pursuit of 50.00001% of the votes, they speak in generalities too often tailored to what the best research tells them people want to hear. Even where people want a world of black and while, I find the shades of gray are far closer to the universal constant.

So far in America we have two cases of Ebola being transmitted, It’s hardly a national epidemic. It’s frightening mostly because until a few weeks ago Ebola was far away nightmare that happened “over there.” Now it’s a real thing. It’s in at least one of our cities and apparently on our planes.

This isn’t a call to ban international travel or to mandate we all take our temperature before leaving the house for the day. It is, however, a statement of opinion that the country needs more than a press conference and repeated assurance that our standards of care and facilities can handle anything. That the two most recent victims are healthcare workers themselves gives lie to the notion that we are in any way prepared for something even a town or two over from “the worst.”

Far more people died in America today driving themselves to work than contracted Ebola, so I want to keep that in perspective. Even knowing that’s a fact, it would be nice to see more than a lick and a promise from the smart people who are in charge of keeping this shit from happening.