What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Delayed, but not forgotten, here’s your rundown of What Annoys Jeff this Week…

1. I don’t like universal healthcare as a concept, but I do like that the court has insisted on calling mandatory health insurance what it is: a tax, just like all the other taxes we pay but whose purpose we may not necessarily agree with. I’m annoyed by people who say “the court got it wrong.” The court didn’t get it any more wrong this time than they did a million years ago when they controversially ruled in Bush v. Gore. As an aside, it’s about time we collectively figure out that just because we don’t like something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s “wrong.” All it means is that we don’t like it. Nine pretty smart people made a decision based on their interpretation of the law, nothing more, nothing less. That puts the issue of health care and insurance squarely back in the political arena, so take it up with your Member of Congress, not the court.

2. Lack of Proper Planning. I heard a rumor once that proper planning prevents piss poor performance. If I ever get the opportunity to experience proper planning in person, I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll just go ahead and continue to expect “performance issues.”

3. Arson laws. If I want to set my house on fire and let it burn it to the ground, I should be perfectly within my rights to do so. That would so much pent up aggravation. Alternately, expensive things could just stop needing repaired. Either way works.


I was driving to lunch this afternoon and some jackwagon in a hybrid-crossover-semi-SUV wannabe kind of vehicle pulled out in front of me. Aside from the usual string of strongly worded invectives, when we pulled up to a stop sign I noticed he had a handicapped parking permit hanging from the rear view mirror. I only mention this because there was what I’m fairly certain was at least a several hundred dollar mountain bike mounted to the roof rack of this vehicle.

I don’t ask for much, but if you’re going to drive like a moron and haul around a mountain bike, something tells me you just might be able to walk the extra twenty feet from the parking lot to the front door. Sure, I’m working under the assumption that he wasn’t, uhh, just holding the bike for someone else, but it seems like a reasonable assumption. Look, I know the world is full of asshats, but maybe you could stick your parking pass under the visor and slightly reduce my desire to drive over you to make sure you’ve got a good reason to use it.

Thoughts on being a slum lord…

Sometimes I think the slum lords get it right. They buy the buildings cheap, pack in the tenants, collect as much rent as possible, and let the building fall apart until its time to abandon it and move on. Landlording is easy if you don’t bother to reinvest in the property. Sink not draining? Tough. Water heater acting “funny”? Who cares. Driveway collapsing? So what. By the time someone gets around to making them fix it, the building will be too far gone to save anyway and they’ll be on to the next deal. Yeah, sometimes I think the ones who just let the place fall in on itself have the right idea. Buying the property is the easy part. It’s the maintenance that’s going to kill you in the long run.

Some day, almost anyone who’s ever owned a home ponders the thought of being a landlord. Someone else is paying you to live in your place. Sounds like a license to make money, right? Well, let me disabuse anyone out there thinking about doing it of that notion. A rental property is pretty much a black hole into which you’re going to throw a never-ending stream of money. It’s like having a boat without the perk of, you know, actually having a boat. It’s going to start with an easy sounding $500 repair to the driveway, which will morph into needing to remove half of the driveway, which then becomes digging up the a trench across driveway and replacing a section of sewer pipe, and ultimately becomes a project remove the entire driveway, trenching deep enough to meet code (since the original builder didn’t bother with that), replace the entire sewer line from the house to the street, and then lay down an entirely new driveway over the freshly fixed and sparkling new swear line. By the time it’s done, your $500 “it’ll only take a few days” repair job will turn into a month long $7000 fiasco involving two city inspections, several pieces of heavy equipment, and a squad of bonded and insured union tradesmen. And you’ll get the joy of watching it all happen from 1000 miles away and hoping that someone down there actually has half an effing clue what’s going on.

So yeah, when you’re seized by the idea of being a landlord, save yourself the time and trouble and just go to the bank, take out a couple of thousand dollars, and set it on fire right there in the parking lot. You’ll have just as much to show for your troubles.

Brain fry…

Fifty or a hundred years ago, an average man came home from work physically exhausted and filthy. There are days I almost envy that kind of work. At the end of the shift, you can point out a stack of steel beams or twenty truckloads of coal and see that you actually did something with your day. By contrast, I got home tonight exhausted, but only from the neck up. Jumping from one thing to another, answering phone calls and questions, and occasionally making things up as I went along just plain wore me out today. If I bothered to starch my collar, though, you wouldn’t know I spent the day at work. I’m trying not to remind myself that it’s only Monday, because my brain is well and truly fried. That doesn’t bode particularly well for the rest of the week.

Still, the part of me whose grandfathers dug coal, stamped tires, and spent their lives doing hard physical labor doesn’t feel quite right complaining about how mentally draining it is to sit in front of a computer screen, answer the phone, and beg, cajole, and threaten people to get the job done is. It seems somewhat less daunting when laid against the kind of physically demanding jobs that they had. Knowing that doesn’t make my gray matter any less shot on days like this, though.

I’ve heard that some extroverts thrive on fast paced, loud, raucous environments. Unfortunately, I’m not an extrovert by nature. To make good decisions I need time to think, reflect, and process and time was the one thing in short supply today. Sure, I’ll keep making decisions, under those conditions, but they won’t be my best. I suppose they don’t always need to be. All I really need now is a nice quiet room, a good book, and possibly a dog or two and I should be back in fighting trim before the sun comes up tomorrow. How it goes after that is still way, way up in the air.

Tweet, Twitter, Tweeted…

I’ve had a Twitter account for, well, I can’t really remember how long. Suffice to say it’s been a while. Maybe I’m just not creative enough or otherwise lack some kind of vision, but as much as I’ve tried to like Twitter, I really don’t. I thought maybe it would help if I followed more people. It didn’t. All that ended up being is a list of people whose tweets I’ve had to block from coming to my phone. I sort of instinctually grasp the social utility of Facebook, but I haven’t quite decided what Twitter is supposed to be all about. I mean it’s sort of cool being able to send a text message to the whole planet at once, but I’m blanking when it comes to reasons I’d want to.

Sure, I’ll keep my account in the hopes that someday I’ll figure out why I need to have it in the first place, but mostly that’s a strategy just to keep someone from hijacking my name. Maybe I’ll get inspired at some point and figure out a reason I need to spend more time with it. Yeah, so clue me in, friends, is there any reason to keep Twitter around or should I go with my gut and chunk it over the side to become yet another piece of the tecno-infrastructure that I tried and found lacking?

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Stop complaining about the heat. It’s summer in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s hot. If you don’t like hot weather, consider moving to Maine or volunteering for an expedition to the South Pole. Here in this part of the country, the weather can be pretty much relied on to be somewhere between warm and scorching in June, July, and August. Those months come around at more or less the same time every year which means temperatures in the 90s shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

2. Unrealistic expectations. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t bend the knee at every opportunity. By nature, I’m an inquisitive person and when someone says something stupid I’m as apt to ask for their logic as I am to just accept it and move on. Occasionally you run into the kind of person who’s not use to being questioned or needing to explain himself. They tend to be the the most fun to play with because they turn a delightful shade of red when they realize you’re not going to hop to and dance to the tune they’ve called. It never fails to amaze me how much trouble everyone could avoid by having reasonable expectations to begin with rather than relying on bluster and the beliefe that everyone will do what they say “just because”.

3. Pretty much everything else. There’s a good chance I need to go to bed and get a good nights sleep, because it would be easier this week to write about what hasn’t annoyed me on some level. That, of course is much less interesting for all of us. Some might say I’ve even “in a mood,” though if we’re honest I’m mostly in a mood because people make me want to bludgeon myself around the head and neck with a blunt object. If tomorrow weren’t Friday and the weekend didn’t promise sweet, sweet quiet time, I’d probably be on the lookout for a nice bell tower or possibly a school book depository. Not really. That would require way more interaction that I’m really feeling up to.

Don’t ruin it…

There’s a scene early in the movie Crimson Tide where the skipper and his new executive officer are standing atop the sail of the USS Alabama taking a long last look at the sky and setting sun. At the end of the scene, captain turns to the XO and says something like, “Your stock went up a few points, you didn’t ruin it by talking.” I think the world would be a better place if more people had the sense of that fictitious XO and didn’t ruin an otherwise nice moment by opening their yap and letting words fly out unrestrained.

Sure, talking is an important way that we humans communicate with one another, but it strikes me that people are so damned busy listening themselves talk that they never pause long enough to consider if what they’re saying actually adds anything to the moment. More often than not, it really, really doesn’t. Sadly, social convention frowns on us from looking someone directly in the eye and telling them to STFU, so we’re left to use more subtle cues like body language to try letting them know that we are less than interested in hearing that really funny story about what happened on their family vacation 40 years ago for the fourth or fifth time. I suspect the real reason homicide is illegal is because at times like that, wrapping your hands around someone’s throat and choking the life out of them seems like a perfectly reasonable course of action.

If I don’t leave the house, I can pass an entire day without saying 100 words from the time I wake up to the time I go back to bed. Not everyone is so laconic, I know. If I find there’s something that needs said, I’m more than happy to speak up loud and long, but I like to think I know the difference between having a point and just nattering at everyone who wanders by because I’m bored. If you’re really that desperate to tell every passing stranger your life story, I have a modest recommendation: get a dog. They’re always terribly interested in whatever you have to say. If you crave a wider audience, start a blog or work part time writing for your local newspaper. Hell, sign up for your own public access television show for all I care, but please, for the love of Good, His saints, and all things good and holy, leave me out of it. If you must include me in your delusions of being interesting, at least have the decency not to ruin it by talking.


I’ve been reading with something that passes for interest about the furor sparked by Adidas’ plan to sell a shoe with a built in shackle. I’m not about to sully my pristine pages here by wading into the ridiculous race debate we seem to treat as a national sport, but I couldn’t let the moment pass without throwing in a couple of cents on what I see as the bigger issue this highlights.

I almost feel bad bringing this up, but none of us, not you, not me, not your great aunt Fannie, are guaranteed to walk through life not being offended. It’s a big, cold world out there and eventually someone is going to say or do something that’s going to hurt your tender feelings or cause you to see something that you find vile, contemptuous, or downright smutty. To that, all I can say is the biggest possible “so what?”

If a company offends your sensibilities, hey feel free to stop handing them your hard earned money. If a friend, neighbor, or some random person on the street says something off color, feel free to ignore them… or better yet, say something equally offensive back at them. I hear Facebook is a particularly effective platform for bitching and moaning about what’s gone wrong with your life. Starting your own blog, of course, elevates you to the level of an almost professional crank.

Trust me, I’m the last person on earth who wants to take away anyone’s inalienable right to gripe and complain. I just wish we could all collectively grow a pair or at least take a shot at building up a little thicker skin. Personally I think we’re collectively making way too big a deal over a shoe that’s, if we’re all honest, just plain ugly as sin anyway.


I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about television. Outside of a few shows that I follow religiously, the set usually just runs as background noise. Most people have favorite TV shows or series, but there are probably fewer of us who have favorite TV writers. Still, I’m glad to see one of my favorites making a splash next Sunday night with Newsroom on HBO. Aaron Sorkin’s writing is, well, just dreamy. I loved the super-fast dialog and walk-and-talk’s on West Wing. His characters, for me at least, reach a hard to replicate level of believability for television. If the trailers for Newsroom are to be believed, it looks like he will hit the mark again.

Sure, Sorkin is an evil genius, notoriously hard to work with, and has an ego big as all outdoors, but damn, the man can write. He can suck you in and make you feel the story. Even when you don’t agree with the politics of the characters or even like them very much, he manages to find a way to invest you in the story and in the lives of the characters on screen. Not a handful of other screen writers manage to hit that sweet spot, but he does it more often than not. Plus, he’s writing for an HBO audience now which means the show won’t have to be dumbed down or cleaned up enough to be acceptable to the broadcast networks.

I’m not usually gushy about television, especially a show that hasn’t premiered yet, but I’m going into it wanting to like Newsroom. Come on, I can’t be the only person out there looking forward to seeing the news media through Sorkin’s slightly warped and monolog-ie perspective, right?

Selective enforcement…

I’ve got a real issue with any administration that selectively enforces the law. Either an action is illegal or it isn’t, otherwise what’s the purpose of describing yourself as being a nation of laws. By effectively granting amnesty to illegal immigrants under the age of 30, President Obama decreed that both the letter and the intent of current US law regarding immigration is irrelevant. Of course the current president isn’t the first to decide that the law is whatever he says it happens to be at the time. Once safely out of office, I seem to recall Nixon saying something about “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Nixon was wrong then just as much as President Obama is wrong now.

I’m not going to drag this blog into a discussion of whether current immigration policy is right or wrong (for the record, I think it needs to be overhauled and then actually enforced, not necessarily in that order). This isn’t a discussion of right and wrong or good and bad, it’s a simple discussion about whether the President of the United States should “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” or just make it up as he goes along. Here’s a hint, one of those two courses of action is spelled out word for word in the Constitution. In cases there’s any confusion, it’s always a good rule of thumb to consult the national user’s manual for guidance.

The president finds the idea of deporting illegal immigrants unethical and unpleasant (not to mention bad for reelection). Fine. I understand that. I find the federal income tax laws unethical and unpleasant. Does that mean I can go ahead and just not pay those this year, or is ignoring the law solely the preserve of the Executive Office of the President? Where does it end? Should companies ignore clean air and water laws or regulations because they’re inconvenient? Maybe it’s ok if soldiers don’t follow lawful orders on the battlefield. After all, the Commander-in-Chief set the precedent that it’s ok just to do whatever it is you happen to agree with.

Even taking away the political implications that will certainly prevent this country from discussing the issue in any rational way, this is bad governance. It’s another step on our race to the bottom. Shame on you, Mr. President. Shame on you for sneaking in the side door what you don’t have the capital or popular support to get done the right way. Shame on you for putting expediency and political considerations ahead of your sworn duty.