What Annoys Jeff this Week?

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.

Cats are jerks…

I have a morning routine. I don’t know that anyone reading this will be surprised by that factoid. Once the morning necessities are taken care of (and while my heathen animals stay comfortable in bed) the dogs go out. Then we come in and the dogs get fed and watered. Then I turn on the sunlamps and feed and water the tortoise. Then I circle back to the bathroom and put out fresh water for the cat (He gets fed at night because he seems to sleep more readily on a full stomach). Usually the cat follows me around through this entire routine. Today he didn’t. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed he wasn’t in his usual spot underfoot while I was fixing my coffee. Then I backtracked. He wasn’t scrounging for dropped dog food. He wasn’t curled up on a favored chair in the living room or sprawled across my bed.

Where he was, however, was stretched out happily in the middle of my indoor tortoise habitat, enjoying the sun lamps, and thoroughly annoying the resident tortoise. Of course that’s where my daily routine came off the rails… because now I have to close off the office, which means moving the 8-foot long, dirt-filled container holding the tortoise, because when I built it in place needing to close off the room wasn’t a consideration. After some effort, a dolly and managing not to spill the entire set up onto the floor, I was able to move it far enough to swing the door closed. The doors don’t so much lock as they “catch” closed using a tab, but I judged them secure enough that a small cat poking at the bottom of them wouldn’t be an issue.

Finally, desperately behind schedule, I was able to depart Fortress Jeff for my day job. Twenty minutes later, the alarm company calls to report “interior motion sensors are active”. I rolled the dice that finding a way to set off the motion sensors was the cat’s version of retribution for shutting him out of the office and I was not, in fact, being robbed blind only a few minutes after leaving for the day… and was proven right. Mercifully. But not before spending the entire day wondering if I shouldn’t have set a course for home at best possible speed and fearing what I’d find when I arrived.

Living with small creatures can be exhausting… and yeah, cats are jerks.

Giving Tuesday…

It’s Giving Tuesday and lest you be led to think that we here at Fortress Jeff are completely heartless bastards, here’s my list of organizations who made the cut for donations this year:

Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) – http://www.baltimoreanimalshelter.org

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – http://www.ifaw.org

World Wildlife Fund – http://www.worldwildlife.org

Ducks Unlimited – http://www.ducks.org

Cecil County Animal Services wishlist

Sure, I could have sent cash to save starving people in war torn lands, but we all know I largely find people a far less sympathetic group than I do animals. After all, I’ve met lots of people who aren’t worth a bucket of spit, but I’ve almost never met an animal that didn’t make my life better just by being.

Cant type… cat on keyboard…

Before I get to the meat of today’s post I should note that we’ve reached the part of the journey through kittenhood where Hershel seems to want to either be on top of the keyboard or is trying to lacerate my fingers while I’m typing. In any case this situation does not lead towards unbridled happiness for either of us. It’s an awfully good thing that small animals are so damned adorable during this phase of life. If they weren’t, I have no earthy idea why we’d tolerate them… but that’s not really the point.

Fortunately, I was able to keep the keyboard clear long enough to do a bit of post Thanksgiving shopping. If I accomplish nothing else over the next few days I’m expecting a shipment of my favored formerly-made-in-England footwear to show up on my doorstep. I wore a standard part of eight-hole Doc Martens all through college and my attempt at a teaching career. A little paste wax and they were good as new for year after year. I changed it up a bit when I went all corporate and switched over to the more “professional” looking oxfords. Still, they were the Made in England accept no substitutes real deal. If I though I could get away with wearing my black “weekend” boots with the parade of khaki pants and polo shirts that are my wardrobe I’d do it in a second… but even my fashion sensibilities have their limits.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make brown boots in England anymore, but they make a pretty good replica of the boot I wore for years somewhere in Asia now. It still has 8 eyes. I’m willing to bet it will still fit my foot like the proverbial glove. More importantly I’ve reached an age where I don’t give a damn if Aztec brown combat boots are considered office attire or not. This long time enthusiast is going back to his roots with a pair of English boots, designed by a German seventy or so years ago, and manufactured in China.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. You’re a racist. Can someone explain to me, perhaps using small and easy to understand words, why I’m a racist because I believe it’s a responsibility of the federal government to have functioning boarders for my country. My travels have carried me to England, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico and I entered those countries using their established processes and in accordance with their laws. It doesn’t feel like much of a stretch to expect the same of people who want to come to the United States.

2. Oh my God the traffic! In the absence of anything even remotely newsworthy to cover, news outlets across America have spent a fair amount of time over the last 36 hours commenting on the high volume of Thanksgiving holiday traffic on the roads. The fact that large numbers of Americans take to the roads as part of their holiday tradition probably hasn’t been news since sometime immediately after World War II. Hyping it as “the worst traffic we’ve seen since… last Thanksgiving,” is just lame and not worth the time it took to script the story. Maybe we could use the free air time and column inches to report on something going on somewhere else in the world. I mean you do know that other places aren’t stuffing their faces with turkey and pie today, right?

3. Selective memory. My liberal friends are howling because of the conservatives President-elect Trump is appointing to fill his Cabinet and White House staff positions. In a grand fit of selective memory, they seem to have forgotten the howl that went up when President Obama selected his cabinet and counselors and surrounded himself with leading lights from the left. Sorry folks, that’s what happens when the party running the Executive Branch changes. It means the heroes of the opposition party have to go away for at least four years. Expecting a liberal president to appoint a deep bench of conservative advisors is stupid… and so is expecting a conservative president to surround himself with liberal lions.

Logic…

I like keeping my phone on a belt clip. It’s geeky and will never be a fashion-correct approach, but it’s convenient and that trumps either of those other considerations. I’m also finicky about the clip and case combination I use. It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I like things precisely the way I like them… and pretty much no other way. This past weekend, the clip caught on something and broke so I’ve been attempting to make due sans clip for the time being. That’s not going particularly well given the combination of pen knife, keys, and other random ephemera that ends up in my pockets.

Having dropped my phone more in the last four days than I’ve dropped any phone over the last four years, I’m forced to concede a change is in order. There’s a method to my madness, of course. Things here seldom happen without there being some underlying logic to them. Even if it’s logic that only makes sense between my own ears.

In a herculean fit of warped reasoning, it occurred to me that spending $30 on a clip to fit a phone I’m due to replace any time now is kind of like putting new tires on a car you’re about to trade in. In my mind, addled as it is by years of accounting for money in those special ways that only Uncle Sam can fathom, the more logical thing to do was to go ahead and buy a new phone and a new clip now instead of waiting another month or two. Let that percolate for a moment if you will. Somewhere in my head it sounded perfectly reasonable to spend $900 on a new phone and then $60 on a new case and clip than it did to spent $30 for a replacement clip to keep the old phone in operation a bit longer.

If anyone wants to know the exact date and time I realized I’ve spent too long working for the government it was Saturday, November 19th, 2016 around 2PM… When I decided spending $960 to save $30 somehow made sense. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed for the time being… though I still don’t have an acceptable or convenient way to keep my phone tethered to me at all times so the whole experience has been decidedly unsatisfying for all involved.

Approach avoidance…

A few months back I’m pretty sure I cracked a tooth, or to be more specific I’m pretty sure I re-cracked a tooth that I had fixed about a decade ago. It only caused minimal and occasional discomfort and could be easily ignored. We seem, currently, to have slowly worked our way past discomfort and are edging into the legitimate pain category. I’m going to go ahead and blame the sudden appearance of cold weather since it appears to be introduction of cold air that’s set off the sensation of someone occasionally jamming a teeny tiny ice pick into my jaw.

This, of course, is where my problem starts. You see it’s not so much that I’m afraid of the dentist, per se. The one’s I’ve met seem like decent enough human beings and individually are not a fear-educing bunch. I am, however, entirely and completely in favor of avoiding pain for as long as possible. This, unfortunately, has now caused me a dilemma. At some point in the near future this untreated tooth is going to start being more than an occasional discomfort. That may be weeks or months from now. An appointment at my local dentist is a guarantee of pain and a sure and certain time. It’s one of the few occasions in life where I generally prefer the unknown future to the known.

Yes, I know this is a ridiculous approach towards dental health. Yes, I know I should have had it taken care of months ago. Yes, I know it’s utterly out of character for a guy who thrives on adding things to a list and getting them knocked off as quickly as possible. I’m unpredictable like that.

I also know that the last three times I’ve walked into a dentist’s office for anything more than a cleaning I’ve walked out chewing on a couple of thousand dollars worth of bills to pay. Pain in the mouth. Pain in the wallet. Completely ridiculous or not, there’s no doubt in my own head why my approach to “modern, painless” dentistry is so often avoidance.