The invisible man…

I grew up watching Dirty Harry and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly at my grandparents house when they ran as Sunday afternoon movies. I’m sure that’s the source of my deep, abiding love of Clint Eastwood as an actor. For my money, Gran Torino is probably one of the best movies made in the last twenty years and that earned him my respect for his abilities as a director. When they announced him as a speaker in prime time at the Republican National Convention, I was eager to see what he’d have to say. After all, the Republican Party as an enduring soft spot for the occasional conservative actor. They’ve done pretty well by us in the past.

As much as I was ready to love whatever he had to say, the reality of the thing was just painful to watch. The meandering, stilted speech wasn’t even in the same arena as what I expected. In another context, with another delivery, by someone other than Clint Eastwood, the conversation with “the invisible president” could possibly have worked. The worst part of it all was inside that hot mess was a kernel of what could have been a great and electrifying speech. As it was, the moment just left me wondering if I was watching an iconic actor have a mental break on live national television. By the end, all I could think of was please sweet baby Jesus, turn on the teleprompter and let the guy get back on script, in thy infinite mercy.

The days when nominees aren’t known until the convention meets are long gone and not likely to return, but last night proved that interesting things can still happen when a political party gathers all its sons and daughters into the tent. This particular prodigal son could have done without last night’s added drama.

What annoys Jeff this week?

Since I’ve been sitting here on the couch for two days now, there hasn’t been all that much opportunity for things to rub me the wrong way me this week… other than the enforced requirement to just sit around, of course. Don’t worry, though, that doesn’t mean the week is going to get off scott free. There are still a few things that annoy me.

1. Good, thoughtful people on both sides of an issue can disagree without necessarily becoming total douche bags. Just because we hold different beliefs and values doesn’t mean we have to scream past one another rather than discussing events and the way ahead using at least some small modicum of rational thought. Nothing turns me off faster than a politician or talking head insisting that theirs is the only possible right solution to whatever the problem happens to be. In math and physics there might only be one right answer… in the humanities, we’re blessed with many different paths to the same result, but that requires everyone to shut their filthy pie holes for a few minutes and listenen to someone else. I’m not holding my breath on that happening.

2. When it comes to getting your hands on the latest and greatest electronic toys, timing is everything. That’s why I got immediately disgruntled when I looked at the likely launch of the new iPhone and discovered that I was going to be stuck in class when consensus says the window for pre-orders is going to open. Sure, it’s a first world problem and all, but I want my shiny new piece of kit, damnit. I may just have to be more creative than usual at getting my order in before ship-by dates slip out to a month or more.

3. Ace bandages suck. No matter how I try to wrap one around my ankle it always ends up with a lump under my foot, or not being tight enough around the ankle, or cutting off circulation to my toes. Honest to God, I looked up a “how to” demonstration video on YouTube and still can’t get it more than halfassed done. If I’m every Secretary of Education, I’m going to insist that schools teach basic first aid and injury care, in the hopes that the 30-somethings of the future have a clue what they’re doing when their body starts falling apart at the margins.

Sitting quietly…

Today I’m learning a hard lesson in sitting quietly. As good as you think I’d be at it, truth is I’m not good at it at all. In fact after about 12 hours of it, I’m pretty much at a loss for what else one can do when sitting around is pretty much the only thing to do. So far I read, wrote, read some more, did some editing, drank a pot of coffee, talked to the dogs, watched the Republican convention and hurricane coverage on television, yelled at the television, read through major newspaper websites from two continents, heated a bowl of soup, and the plopped back down in my chair so I could put my foot up. This is not the life of leisure I dreamed of.

I suppose the good news is that I didn’t break the damned ankle when it twisted. The bad news, according to the shopping center doctor I saw last night, is that I “sprained the hell out of it.” Im pretty sure that’s some kind of complicated medical term for this is going to hurt like a mother for the next couple of days. I like to think that it’ll be settled down enough tomorrow to do something more than sit here twiddling my thumbs, but if my last gimping trip to the kitchen for more water is any indication, I’m not overly optimistic. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it, I guess. In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting here quietly. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, there’s a good chance I’ll have beaten myself unconscious will my laptop just to have something different to do.

They might not be so bad…

So the neighbor’s kids still annoy the living bejesus out of Maggie and Winston, but they are slowly starting to show a few potentially redeeming qualities too… Like when they were playing in their driveway yesterday and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Neighbor Girl 1: Your grass looks nice.

Jeff: Uhhh… Thank you.

Neighbor Girl 2: Mommy says daddy should take care of the yard like you do, Mr. Jeff.

Jeff: Hahahahahahahahaha!

Neighbor: Girl 2, did you just say what I think you said?

Jeff: Bwahahahahahahahaha! *and walks away*

I’m beginning to think that these kids might not be so bad after all.

Any way the wind blows…

I haven’t chased a hurricane since Dean in 2007, but there’s something about seeing the storm warnings go up that still gets in my head. It’s a twitchy feeling that I should pack a bag, clear my schedule, and track down an overtime request form.

Emergency managers usually get a bad name for being unprepared, unresponsive, or just plain out of their depth in planning how to respond to something like a hurricane or an earthquake. The truth is that even though I’m sitting here looking at a forecast track that is eerily similar to Katrina’s, Isaac will behave completely differently. Even when they hit the same place, no two natural disasters are exactly the same… and no amount of pre-planning will overcome the natural tendency of large groups of people to do exactly the wrong thing in an emergency (like staying in a city that’s only kept dry when the levees work and the pumps keep running).

I could tell you stories of horrifyingly bad judgment from everyone from FEMA Administrators, to state governors, to local elected leaders, to average schleps on the ground working under the misguided assumption that they were doing the right things. When you have a bird’s eye view of the event, it’s surprisingly easy to see where things are going wrong. It’s incredibly frustrating and harder than hell to get them going in the right direction, though. In all likelihood I’ll never work another day in emergency management, but after a five year absence, I can honestly say that I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the circumstances every presented themselves.

For now I suppose I’ll follow along on TV like everyone else and just be glad it’s not me on the hook to find millions of gallons of water, tons of ice, and wheels to put under all of it.

More posts from the old school…

Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Stuff Jeff Wrote Six Years Ago that it Might be Funny to Repost Here on WordPress. For your reading enjoyment this Sunday, I’ve posted another selection of MySpace original blog posts from mid-June 2006. Tomorrow we’ll get back to original content, but in the meantime, check out the new old posts here:

It’s not a fad…

When I walked into the Toyota dealership’s waiting room this morning I took a quick lookie-loo at the dozen or so people sitting there trying not to make eye contact with one another. I’ve known for years that I’d be more or less lost without my iPad, but what I saw in that room legitimately surprised me. I counted two laptops, five iPads, one Kindle Fire, one Nook, one Android tablet of unspecified origin, one old guy reading an actual dead tree newspaper, and one lone soul actually watching whatever Saturday morning kid’s drivel they were showing on television. So out of a dozen people, eight were fully engaged with their tablets. Two years ago sitting in another Toyota dealership waiting for my truck my iPad was a curiosity and garnered plenty of questions. This morning, they were the rule rather than the exception. And that’s when I became well and truly convinced that the tablets aren’t going to be an electronic fad, but a legitimate way of the future.

Dreams from a past life…

I had a dream last night. Before someone asks, no it wasn’t about equality, justice, or peaceful coexistence, which I guess if you know me isn’t really all that surprising. What is surprising is that I remember the dream at all. I’m sure that like everyone else on the planet, I have plenty of dreams at night, but it’s extremely rare for me to remember them at all when I wake up. Occasionally I’m vaguely aware that I had a dream, but remembering anything about it almost never happens… Which I suppose makes last night’s stand out more vividly.

In the early 2000s I was introduced to the now defunct Baltimore nightlife institution, Bohager’s. The “Bohdome” was an all purpose concert venue, bar, grille, meat market, and only slightly disguised illicit drug emporium. The cavernous space offered up five bars, a DJ or live music depending on the night, an all-you-can-drink $15 or 20 cover, and a live action version of Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition. The place reeked of stale smoke and spilled booze, testosterone, and cheap thrills. There was a while there in my early 20s when I wanted to move in.

Bohager’s has been a parking lot/condo development for the better part of a decade now, but I was there in Fell’s Point last night, back on my favorite perch just between the upper level bar and the railing, with the best view of the stage and the dance floor below. And I mean it was real; so real I could taste the cigarette smoke and off brand rum in my mouth when I woke up this morning. That’s why I know it must have been a dream since I haven’t had a smoke in over two years now and it’s been a hell of a lot longer than that since I drank cheap alcohol.

It’s strange the things that come to us in our dreams. I could spend hours analyzing what I think it means and why my brain took me there last night. Instead of making much of a deal out of it, I think I’ll just smile and appreciate the happy memory… and maybe raise a glass or two tonight in honor of times long past.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Intersection Panhandlers. I’ve seen the five of you working the same intersection for 14 months… but only when the weather is agreeable. I’ve seen you getting bottles of water, soda, and bags of chips out of the truck that cost more than mine did on more than one occasion. I’ve even watched you swap signs, thinking that maybe you’d have better luck as a homeless vet than an unemployed single father. While I appreciate your ability to find a niche and milk it for all its worth, the next time you’re tempted to step off the curb in front of me just as the light’s turning green, try to keep in mind that while your family might appreciate the insurance settlement, you’ll be too flat and squishy to enjoy it.

2. Congressman Todd Akin. You, sir, are an asshat. Your lack of knowledge of basic health science and general lack of tact are inconsistent with your elected position in government. There are plenty of ways to espouse wackadoodle positions without sounding like a giant douche on national television. It’s probably best if you STFU and start making plans for your new career as a former Member of Congress, unless, of course, the fine people of the State of Missouri go ahead and elect you anyway… in which case they’ll get exactly the kind of senator they deserve.

3. The Prince’s New Clothes. Harry went to Vegas, got naked, and was dumb enough to let it get captured on “film.” I get that he’s a HRH and all, but can anyone that’s ever spent a weekend in Vegas say that they’d want some of the less noble moments of their trip preserved for posterity and flashed around the globe as an alleged bit of news. Like so many pop culture “scandles,” maybe I just miss the so what of it all. The guy’s in Vegas, he’s having a good time, no one got hurt, and I say God bless… but I don’t really need to see the pictures.

And the winner is…

Other than back in 1996 when I cast my first vote in a presidential election for Bob Dole, I’ve had a pretty good track record of backing the general election winner. I like to think that I’ll keep up that trend this fall, which is why here and now I’m throwing the full faith and credit of behind the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Romney wasn’t my first choice during the Republican primaries, but he’s my last choice, and ultimately he’s the right choice for America.

The history, voting record, and gigabytes of other information about the candidates is available just about everywhere and I’m not going to reiterate those points here. I just wanted to take a few lines to explain my logic and to encourage everyone reading this post to ask themselves some hard questions before they walk into the voting booth on November 6th.

As a federal employee my immediate economic self interest would dictate that I vote for the candidate that is most likely to increase the size and scope of the government, who is most likely to raise my pay, and who is most likely to keep me employed. Mitt Romney isn’t that candidate. In fact under a Romney administration, there’s a fair chance that I’ll make less money, have less opportunity for growth, and possibly see my job eliminated all together. As an employee, that makes Romney a tough sell as a potential future boss.

It wasn’t until I looked at the current situation facing the country from a different perspective that I decided Romney was the one. I had to see things from the perspective of a citizen and not an employee before they came into focus. I think it’s abundantly clear that the trajectory we’re on under the current administration is simply unsustainable. We’re facing a season of hard and uncomfortable decisions and electing them to a second term only ensures more of the same.

I’m not under any delusion of Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan being the perfect candidate, but I’m not so ossified in my opinions to think I need to agree with every position a politician or a party takes on any particular issue. The fact is I disagree with them on some pretty key elements of social policy, but this time around it’s all about the economy, stupid. If we don’t get that fixed, all the other discussions are purely academic. Ending deficit spending, reducing the national debt to a manageable level, spurring economic growth and innovation, and reforming the current byzantine tax code are the big issues for 2012… and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are where it’s at.