What I would have told BBC Radio 5…

I had the chance a few minutes ago to speak to a producer from BBC Radio 5. He wanted me to come on air tonight and talk briefly about the budget, the impending shutdown, and what if feels like to be a federal employee under the circumstances. Now I dearly love the BBC and have since I was lucky enough to visit England in 1996, but the part of me that handles self preservation seemed to instinctively know that I my right to free speech is more protected here on my blog than it would be if I were speaking about anything remotely work-related to a foreign-owned radio network. That’s a pity, because I really, really was tempted to just do it BBC Radio 5and damn the consequences. Being the online attention whore than I am, I think everyone can understand why I would want to spend a few minutes talking to the friggin’ BBC, right? I mean just think of the untapped potential audience just there for the taking. Sadly, I opted not to go on air and talk about being furloughed for fear that I would say something that would end up getting me completely terminated. How’s that for irony?

At any rate, if I had gone on air, here’s what I’d have told the fine people listening to BBC Radio 5 Live this evening:

It’s been said that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Unfortunately the great voice of the American people, that wide swath of moderation that flows through this country like a river, is being drowned out by the extremists on the left and right wings. Both sides are equally bent on winning the argument on their own terms and both sides are equally wrong, equally damaging, and equally deserving of the scorn, ridicule, and eternal damnation of their countrymen.

Our republic has all outward signs of slipping hopelessly into dysfunction. It is no longer responsive or accountable to the people. It no longer has the consent of the governed. Tonight, I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat.

I’m an American. I love my country. And I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed by the government that claims to represent me. 

I wish I would have had the courage to do the damned interview, because I have yet to hear a single public voice calling for moderation and compromise. I don’t imagine that mine is much a public voice, but for God’s sake someone, somewhere has to stand up and scream that this madness has gone far enough and must go no further.

 

Rough around the edges…

I’d love to tell you that I remember anything from June 2008, but the fact is it must have been pretty unremarkable. I don’t recall a single event outside of what I’ve been reading while posting this week’s archive update. That doesn’t necessarily mean the old posts lack juice, though. A coupe of this week’s posts are real gems – maybe a little rough around the edges – but they’ve got good bones. Any time a post pops up that touches on a memory from my four years at Frostburg it’s almost always a good time. I’m sure there were some less than good times in there too, but I really don’t remember them. It’s reassuring to remember that no matter how stupid today seems, in a decade I’ll be looking back on this time fondly, having had enough time pass to suppress the worst of the bad moments.

Be sure to check out the posts on how certain phrases I still use came into being. I don’t know if they’ll give you any insight into how my brain works, but they’re good reads… and had the added benefit of setting me to wonder if there are any new words and phrases in my vocabulary that are worthy of an explanation. It’s always nice when these old posts point the way towards some potential new material, because let’s be honest, ginning up new stuff every day is tough.

Wimps…

I’m a registered Republican and quite frankly I think the current crop of Republican “leaders” are a bunch of little nancy girls. Total friggin’ pansies. Cowards. Wimps. They’re going through the motions of “shutting down the government” in the name of resisting Obamacare. The reality is that what the government is going to carry out if they have their way is, at best, a partial government shutdown. If the “shutdown” happens, more than half the government will continue to operate. That’s a lame excuse for a shutdown if I ever heard one.

If the Tea Party Republicans were serious about stopping Obamacare, they’d actually shut down the government, not the kind of half-assed stunt like they seem bent on pulling. If they want to make a statement, they should really shut the mother down.

Shut it all the way down and let people suck on no Social Security checks, no federal prison guards or courts, no Border Patrol or Coast Guard; No food stamps, no disability, no agriculture subsidies, no meat inspection or drug oversight. No air traffic controllers, no TSA screeners, no GPS satellites, no weather forecasting or storm warnings. Shut down the VA hospitals, banks, and the stock market. Stop producing electricity at hydro-electric plants across the west. Lock the doors and walk away from every military installation across the country and throughout the world. Tell the troops overseas that they’re on their own until further notice. Take away their pay, food, uniforms, weapons, and ammunition because that came at tax payer expense. If you’re going to say you’re playing hardball, then for God’s sake have the stones to actually play hardball.

Unfortunately, what the loudmouthed amateurs who’ve hijacked the Republican party are doing is grandstanding, not standing on principle. If they were committed to their quest, they’d stop being a bunch of pansies about it… but all I can see them doing today is dicking around with the full faith and credit of the United States of America, loving the sound of their own voices, and trying to scorch the earth just to watch it burn.

You know what? I don’t think Obamacare is good law either, but I can accept that my party lost an election. The fact that we’re on the slippery slope to universal healthcare is an unfortunate results of that loss. It’s painfully obvious that these asshats have no earthly idea what it means to be a Republican (or a republican for that matter), because whatever they are, they’re not acting like the heirs of Lincoln, or TR, or Reagan. Right now they’re acting like nothing more than the bitter cranks that members of my party are always accused of being. That makes for bad politics. It makes for bad public relations. And it makes for bad government.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Too quiet. I’m generally a guy who appreciates his peace and quiet. Except when that quiet comes in the form of one of the meeting rooms I occasionally get stuck in. It’s not technically an anechoic chamber, but it’s awfully close. The small battery powered clock on the wall ticks with the sound of thunder and you can definitely hear the sound of the blood pumping through your ears when you’re the only one in there. As much as I appreciate a nice quiet workplace, apparently being surrounded by sound deadening material is my bridge too far. Surprisingly, even for me, there is such a thing as too quiet. Who knew?

2. Every Saturday. I get groceries every Saturday morning. It’s as ingrained into The Routine as brewing a pot of coffee first thing in the morning. Apparently a lot of other people also do their shopping on Saturday mornings too… which is why I don’t understand why every Saturday feels like I’m surrounded by people who are experiencing the grocery store for the first time. I don’t get the people walking around in awe of the abundance before them or the ones who don’t seem to have any earthly idea why they’re there or what they’re supposed to load into their cart to take home. Can we at least try to have a list, a plan, and not spend half the damned day wandering around as if the pasta aisle was the latest Magic Kingdom attraction?

3. Bank of America. Bank of America gets featured here a lot, but I actually tried hard to like them. Their online banking system is second to none and they had branches and ATMs just about everywhere I’d ever want to be. Their website is still top notch in my opinion, but over the last two months, I’ve watched their local ATMs practically drop off the face of the earth. I went from having four of them spread out along my daily commute path to having none. There’s still a branch office open locally, but not in a location that’s convenient to any of my normal travels… and it’s safe to assume I won’t be making any special trips just for the privilege of being a Bank of America customer. Sure, I’ll keep an account open with them in case I ever needed it, but I’m pointing my direct deposit and bill pay to one of the local credit unions. I really did like their big bank feel, but not enough to get stuck paying $5 in fees every time I wanted a few twenty dollar bills. There are just too many other, cheaper options to stick around for that kind of asshattery.

Faith and good works…

I went to work for my Uncle Sam almost 11 years ago. I knew that the job was never a path to riches, but it was good, honest work in support of the republic. I had the idealist’s faith that I was doing good works mad-as-helland in exchange I’d be afforded a decent salary and benefits commensurate with my professionalism. Maybe that was true once… or maybe that’s a past world that only ever existed in my imagination.

This is going to sound strange coming from a cynic, but I still feel like I’m doing good works – that what I’m doing does, or at least should matter. What I’ve lost, though, is the faith that I’m doing the right thing for me and that my time and talents wouldn’t be better spent taking on some other challenge. That’s a startling realization after you’ve spent most of your professional life following what you thought was “the one true the way.”

After three long years of hiring and pay freezes, furloughs, impending shutdowns, an apathetic administration, and serving as the legislative branch’s favored whipping boy, it’s really a marvel of human endurance and fortitude that more people aren’t just walking away from the whole damned mess. I’m not on the cusp yet of having my “mad as hell and not taking it anymore” moment, but I’m sorely tempted on an almost daily basis.

I may have lost my faith, but like everyone else on the planet I have bills to pay and promises to keep… and that’s likely enough to keep me on the straight and narrow even when the thrill is gone.

Too dead to care…

Writing a will is one of those things I know I’m supposed to do as a responsible adult. I’ve pondered it off and on a few times in the past, but the Navy Yard shooting last week got me thinking that perhaps I’m not actually invulnerable and that it was time to actually sit down and put pen to paper.

On the advice of counsel, I’ve started conducting an item by item inventory and deciding if there’s anything of significance I want to account for specifically. What I’ve discovered during this process is that while I have a house full of random crap that I’ve accumulated over the last 35 years, there’s not much in it that would mean a thing to anyone else. For the most part the house is full of objects that are sentimental to me personally, but don’t necessarily have much real world value. There are a few items that have a very specific final destination when I’m finished with them – a few trinkets and shiny baubles, a bit of furniture hand built by a grandfather I never met, and other odds and ends that should find their way to a good home eventually. Those bits were easy enough to tick off and allocate in what seemed like an appropriately fair way.

What I’ve actually spent the most time considering is the disposition of whatever animals I might have when I shuffle off the stage for the last time. While I’m certainly planning on outliving both Maggie and Winston, it seems reasonable to assume at this point that there will always be dogs in my household. There’s also the issue of a Russian tortoise named George who could very easily be around a few decades after I’ve begun my career as a daisy pusher. I don’t think I’m going to cash out and leave everything to the critters, but it’s safe to say that there’s going to be a provision that accounts for their health and wellbeing in my absence.

Your own mortality is a ponderous thing to spend any serious amount of time considering. I know it’s the right thing to do, but so far the effort has left me with more questions than answers… and everyone can guess how I feel about such ill-defined murkiness. It seems that the best one can manage under the circumstances is stating their druthers and then hoping someone actually follows through with them. Of course the up side is that by the time any of this is particularly important, I’ll simply be too dead to care what happens anyway.

I suppose it sounds a touch morbid, but I have to admit I find it strangely comforting to know the circus will go on even if I’m no longer part of the big show.

Millions and millions sold…

Everyone expects “revolutionary” from Apple. The truth is they only really do revolutionary once or twice in a decade. Once they set the market it’s all about making evolutionary changes. Evolutionary is precisely how I’d describe the iPhone 5s. It feels exactly the same in hand as the 5. Aside from the new color options, you’d probably never know it was a new device until you fired it up and saw what was “under the hood.”

The 5s, not surprisingly runs iOS7 like a champion. It’s a very snappy performer at every task I’ve thrown at it in four days. The new camera is the real game changer for me. I think they’ve finally improved it to the point where I won’t even be tempted to drag along a stand alone point and shoot camera when I go somewhere. For you photogs, it’s obviously not SLR quality, but hey, it’s a phone and not a $1000 camera, so there’s that. The OS itself is starting to grow on me. It still feels a little too colorful for me, but I have to admit the interface is very slick once you get use to it. There are plenty of toggles and options to control how iPhone behaves, but at the end of the day you’re still in Apple’s walled garden so some options are limited. Fortunately, most of us don’t by iOS or Apple products because we want to tinker with the innards.

Apple issued a press release today that cited over 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c variants sold over this past weekend. I have no doubt that’s how many were ordered since early Friday morning, but there’s no way that’s how many phones they put in hands over the last three days. The buying experience has really been the only blemish on what I otherwise consider a pretty remarkable phone. Whether you blame rolling out in too many countries, over estimating demand of the 5c models, or manufacturing challenges with the fingerprint reader, Apple had far fewer “flagship” models available in their retail stores than they have in past years. My best estimate is that they had no more than 400-500 on hand at Christiana Mall on Friday at launch. Of course that only matters if you’re committed to getting your hands on a phone on day one. Fortunately for me, Best Buy stepped in and filled the gap left in Apple’s own retail supply chain.

The bottom line? It’s a great phone, a solid performer, and absolutely the best phone I have ever owned. I have no regrets upgrading from the 5 to the 5s. If you’re sitting on a 4s, it’s probably a “must have” upgrade.