Beware of Dog…

Once upon a time, my opinions were sought out on such issues as organizational efficiencies and streamlining processes and procedures. I like to think that I had some good ideas that ended up saving a decent amount of time and money for my employer. Since that kind of thing is no longer part of my operational portfolio, I have to make do with dispensing these little pearls of wisdom to whomever happens to be in earshot at any given time (i.e. anyone who happens to wander across this page in the hope of finding something new or informative to read). Suckers.

It’s with that in mind that my thoughts turn to Halloween and trick-or-treating. That magical time of year when for one dark, dark night, it’s perfectly acceptable for your children to brazenly approach strangers and accept candy from them. If I sat at the park offering the same candy on a random weekday evening in June, I’d be locked up for sure. Like most other pegan-based holidays, I’m sure the roots of Halloween are originally a good time for everyone. In a day and age when you have to drive little Bobby and Suzy from door to door so they can learn the only socially accepted form of begging in the civilized world, I’m not sure that it continues to serve a useful purpose. That said, this is my proposal: Instead of spending a lot of money on a costume, running out gas getting too and from the neighborhood of your choice, and generally spending several hours out in the cold, why doesn’t every parent just go to the nearest Walmart, Giant, Kroger, or local convenience store, spend five dollars on candy for their own kid, and call it a day. We’d collectively save a mountain of cash by following this simple plan. I wouldn’t spend the night worried that someone is going to slip, fall, and sue me. And the dogs wouldn’t launch into a barking fit every time they hear someone walking across the deck. So come on, help me help you.

Now if you’ll excuse me it’s time to go hang up the Beware of Dog signs and make sure today’s troubled youth stay off my lawn.

The dawn’s early light…

It’s just after 7:30 AM and there’s just enough light now to start seeing the world beyond the four apparently study walls of Rental Casa de Jeff. I’m happy to say that a quick check of the perimeter, accompanied by two less than enthusiastic dogs, shows no real damage to the structure. The only thing that is out of place is a lilac bush that seems to be leaning an at unnatural angle against the fence. I have no intention of really looking at that until this damnable cold rain lets off. With the sound of the wind last night, I was expecting much, much worse in the dawn’s early light. Once again my general pessimism about the way of things has paid off by letting me be pleasantly surprised this morning. Even so, I have to confess that I’d rather experience storms from video wall on the 2nd floor of FEMA’s office downtown than listening to it happen around me in real time.

For now, the coffee is on, I’ve got a propane wall heater taking the chill off the 61 degree kitchen, and everything is watertight. With the number of friends who have taken on water or had other damage, I realize how fortunate I’ve been. Once I’ve got some caffein back in my system, I’ll get the computer equipment back out of it’s watertight storage and start getting everything back online.

For my readers, friends, and family, I hope all is well. Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you when all this finally blows over.

Plans unplanned…

I took today off because I was supposed to have Winston’s 6 week follow-up visit with the vet as well as my own annual eye exam later in the day. We all know I like it when days off are productive days. Sure, this is a theoretical “once in a lifetime storm event,” but I can’t be the only one sitting around annoyed that nature is dinking around with things I need to get done. I’ll do my best to remind myself that this is officially now a “free” day off and I’ll be able to rescheduled my leave to another day… so if nothing else, it’s a two-fer in terms of getting out of the office. That perspective makes using one of them to do nothing other than sit around the house today much more tolerable. Happy hurricane-ing.

The end of August (2006)…

In keeping with our new tradition, the next five archive posts from MySpace are now available for your reading enjoyment. That brings August 2006 to a close. The first couple of posts from September of that year deal with an even that was, and remains, a painful topic for the family. Between now and next Sunday, I’m going to have to make a judgement call on whether those become part of the public record here or if I save them back to my own archive. Yes, before anyone asks, I’m practicing a bit of revisionist history when these posts go live, but for the most part I’m working hard not to change the substance in any way. Most of the changes are for grammar, punctuation, and clarity. One thing I can tell you for sure is that my writing has definitely improved in the last six years. I’ll be interested to look back from 2018 and see if I can say the same about the posts I’m putting up now.

Do as I do…

I got my sample ballot in the mail last night and between the fevered runs to the liquor and grocery stores to prepare for the onrushing storm of the millennium, I thought I’d so something a little different this year and admit right our in public exactly how I intend to vote when I step up to the “electronic device”. And yes, I always fill out the sample ballot in advance and take it with me, so I can make sure it jives with the actual ballot and so I don’t have to spend alot of time holding up the line on the big day. I’m a conscientious voter like that.

On the right hand side of the sample ballot, you’ll see a pretty straight party line Republican vote. No surprises there and I think I’ve spent enough time here talking about why my on-again-off-again relationship with the Republican Party is back on this election year. The only gap in my ballot reflect a current lack of knowledge about the Maryland Court of Special Appeals continuance and for the local board of education candidates here in Ceciltucky. I’ll need to get my research on before coming down on those three candidates.

So now it’s down to what everyone is curious about… How Jeff breaks on the seven potential amendments to the state constitution. Not only will I tell you which way I’m going, but I’ll also give you a bit of explanation on my thinking for each one.

Question 1 & 2: No. If a justice of the United States Supreme Court doesn’t have to be a barred lawyer, what on earth makes anyone think that the PG and Baltimore County Orphan’s Court Judges must absolutely be practicing lawyers. There are plenty of smart people in the state who aren’t lawyers and would do fine in those positions and it does not rise to level of requiring an amendment to the state’s foundational document.

Question 3: Yes. If you’re elected to a position in government and are convicted of criminal action, I want you removed from office as quickly and expeditiously as humanly possible (consistant with your due process rights).

Question 4: No. I support in-state tuition rates for legal residents of Maryland. Those in the United States illegally should not be entitled to special discounts at citizen expense.

Question 5: No. The Congressional districts drawn by the state legislature would be a joke if their impact wasn’t so serious. Gerrymandering is wrong regardless of the party that’s doing it. District lines should be as simple as possible and not represent an effort to “carve out” a seat for one part or another.

Question 6: Yes. Straight, gay, animal, vegetable, or mineral, it’s none of my damned business who you want to marry. The government should issue a civil marriage license to any couple who otherwise meet the statutory requirements. Marriage licenses, like any other kind of state permit, are a revenue stream and I’m all for increasing the number being handed out (and the fees being paid).

Question 7: Yes. I can play blackjack in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey all within a 90 minute drive of where I’m sitting to write this. Maryland has already opened the pandora’s box of gambling, so we might as well go all in… and try to draw some gamblers from Northern Virginia with a fancy new casino at National Harbor.

So there you have it. That’s how the 2012 election is going to look from my place in the cheap seats. And now that I’ve probably offered up something to piss off every friend, colleague, and member of the family, I think I’ll go turn my cell phone off to avoid the commentary that’s pretty much inevitable.

Older, fatter, and balder…

In the face of “impending weather catastrophes” it seems that everyone becomes an older, fatter, and balder version of their 12 year old self… with the most prominent questions of the day focused on pondering the mysteries of how and when a decision might be made to close the office and whether it’s best to pick up a cubic yard of toilet paper after work or wait to the early hours of the morning to make a market run. Since I’m already taking the day off Monday, the question is pretty much academic… unless the whole system slows down and doesn’t start rolling in until late in the day Monday or very early Tuesday morning. What I’m really looking for here is a healthy dose of mayhem and chaos, by which I mean enough to extend the weekend, but not enough to cause a disruption in the power supply… because let’s face it, a day with no electricity isn’t really any better than a day at work.

Perspective… It’s a bitch

One of the best parts of working for Uncle is the people you get to meet. I almost physically bumped into President Bush while I was coming out of the john at FEMA headquarters and have met Members of Congress, department secretaries, and other official worthies at equally odd times and places. Today, I got to sit in on a talk given by Sal Giunta. It’s a name some of you might recognize. In 2010, he became the first living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient since the end of the Vietnam War. Though he disputes the appellation, he is the operative definition of what it means to be an American hero.

The trouble with meeting legitimate heroes, of course, is it tends to force you to reevaluate all of your own griping and complaining. Aww. Poor baby. You don’t like going to meetings? You hate updating all these damned PowerPoint slides? Should we get you a Medal of Honor too? Touché.

So if you’re wondering why nothing annoys Jeff this week, it’s because after listening to a Medal of Honor recipient, nothing that annoys me is even worth a second thought.

Perspective… It is a bitch.


If you read any books about writing, they’re chalk full of good ideas about what to do when the ideas aren’t flowing like “just sit down and write anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s just the same word over and over again.” Those books are clearly written by jerkoffs. Sometimes no matter how hard you smash your fingers against the keyboard, absolutely nothing useful ends up on the screen. Given that most evenings I’m usually more or less successful at stringing at least a few words together into a coherent thought, I should probably just accept a few days like this as one of the costs of doing business. It’s also an incredibly helpful reminder about why I never seriously consider one of these batshit crazy writing projects where you take a deep and personal oath to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Even if I could manage it, I have a sinking feeling that the last 20,000 words might come out like ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JEFF A DULL BOY. And honest to God, for me writing is supposed to be a stress free, relaxing hobby. I just don’t need that level of self-generated pressure.

Shelf life…

From the moment you buy any new bit of technology, the clock is running. Call it shelf life, planned obsolesce, or corporate money grubbing, the only great truism in high tech, is the next great thing is always just around the corner. Another, more or less unspoken truth has always been that Apple released it’s new and improved products about a year after the last model came out. Amortized out over a period of 12 months, even a $700 iPad could almost be considered a yearly purchase, especially when you account for its relatively high resale value. By the time it was said and done, the total cost of ownership of my first two iPads came out to something like $20 a month… or one vinti vanilla latte a week.

In rolling out the iPad 4 just seven months after the 3rd iteration launched, Apple has thrown my TCOO calculation all out of whack. The device got a serious spec bump and I would love to have the additional processing power/speed, but the fact is there’s nothing the 4 does that the 3 can’t do (almost) as well. This time around, I’m just not seeing the typical “killer” feature that would usually drive me to switch to the latest and greatest model. Of course that explains why that iPad 3 has been discontinued rather than simply sold at a lower price point. The specs and performance are just too close to the new flagship. I know there are plenty of people who will be up early on Friday to drop in their order, though. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t strongly consider it if for no other reason than to be able to use the same charging cable for my phone and my tablet. Unless you’re in that position, it’s hard to describe just how annoying that actually is. Still, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be a buyer for iPad 4.

Having ruled out full sized iPad out of the equation still leaves me to consider the iPad mini. Since I many use my iPad as an e-reader, I have to admit this one is tempting. I like the idea of a smaller/lighter device, but don’t think I can get past what feels like a “downgrade” in specs going from iPad 3 to iPad mini, by which I mean losing the retina display and not gaining anything particularly impressive in terms of overall performance. I’m really going to have to hold on in my hand before I’m ready to pass judgment one way or the other.

Don’t take any of this as a slam against the world’s most valuable company, because it’s not. I think Apple rolled out a truly ridiculous number of new, improved, and magical devices today. If there’s any of them that I’m super desirous of at the moment, it would be the new retina 13-inch MacBook Pro, but with its 2008-model ancestor basically still running like it was new out of the box and a Mac mini doing all of the heavy lifting in this house, a $1700 bill from the Apple store just isn’t on the table at the moment.

It seems I’m at that uncomfortable point in product life cycles where there just isn’t much incentive to change what’s currently working. If I weren’t already sitting so close to the state of the art, though, any of the new toys Tim and Company spent the afternoon showing off would be a pretty damned impressive addition to the collection.

Master debaters…

Tonight is the last of three scheduled presidential debates in this most important of election years. If you don’t tune in, you’re going to miss out on the two principle candidates for office bashing one another about their respective positions on U.S. foreign policy. If they don’t use up all available time calling one another names and making faces, we might just hear a few words about pressing international issues – Libya, Iran, and how America’s increasing sovereign debt limits our influence in the world jump to mind as items they may touch on over the course of 90 minutes.

If you plan on voting in the presidential election, please tune in at 9:00 PM (EDT) to the station of your choice and follow along. If you don’t plan on voting, or can’t be bothered with learning a little about the candidates or their position, then feel free to tune into to reruns of Honey Boo Boo, Jersey Shore, or Real Housewives for your daily dose of What’s Wrong with America.

This has been an unpaid public service announcement brought to you by I’m going to try to keep my snarky commentary off Facebook tonight, so make sure to keep up with @jdtharp on twitter. My name is Jeffrey Tharp and I approved this message.