Independence Day week is, in my opinion, second only to the week between Christmas and New Years in terms of how little actual productive work takes place inside Uncle’s vast machine. It’s true that not everyone takes the week (or four days) off, but for the most part the number of people on vacation approaches the point of critical mass where it becomes nearly impossible to get anything accomplished if it requires more than two people to be part of the decision-making or work flow. I’m sure there are plenty of old hands who might deny what I’m telling you, but experience tells me that this week is a dead zone for productivity. No matter how many memos you cram into the pipeline, if there’s no one there to read them on the other end, it’s just so many trees falling in the forest.
I’ve always felt like this week was the civilian equivalent to an operational pause – a breather before the long march through summer towards Labor Day and the close of the fiscal year. There are still plenty of people giving the illusion of getting something accomplished, but I suspect that if they were all honest at least half the emails they send are greeted with an out-of-office message. By early in the day Thursday, you’re going to find even the most dedicated of employees giving up the illusion and watching the clock with the rest of us poor dumb working stiffs.
That’s just part of the magic joy that is the trinity of three-day weekends in the summer. They feel different. They’re special. Maybe they hark back to being fourteen and having the whole summer stretched out in front of us like a never-ending weekend. Or maybe we just appreciate the reminder of the life we can look forward to in 20 year, 11 months, and 1 day… if we were so inclined to count the amount of time until we’re eligible for retirement.
Talk about celebrating a real independence day.
I could probably create some grand story about why this is the first post in three days, but the fact is I mostly forgot about posting this weekend. Not spending a great deal of time annoyed, aggravated, or otherwise pissed off radically diminishes the number of ideas worth writing about. That might be the only unfortunate side effect of spending a weekend successfully hiding from the world. The lower blood pressure resulting from the lack of human interaction is probably worth the lack of words.
Conveniently, Sunday night making its inevitable appearance has reminded me that there is, in fact, still a world out there just waiting to cause offense. That’s probably what reminded me that I needed to get back to the blog. I’m doing my best to remind myself that this weekend is leading into a short week that’s leading in to a long weekend, that’s leading into an even shorter week, that’s leading into an even longer weekend, that’s leading into yet another short week. As long as I get over the hump of the next four days, at least the first half of July is scheduled to look pretty damned good. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that I don’t find some way to jack it all up between now and then. In fact even admitting that I’m looking forward to it has probably been enough to irretrievably jinx myself.
Tomorrow’s Monday, which if nothing else means that there will in all likelihood be plenty of fodder for new posts. I just hope the blogging gods will let me off the hook for skipping out on them for the last few days. Otherwise, it’s could be a very long week indeed.
1. Summer. I can’t help but notice in the last week or so that we’ve entered the part of the year when I drive by the local high school twice a day and find its parking lot absolutely empty. I’m not even going to try getting into a discussion about teaching, whether it’s an over paid or under paid profession, or even whether it should be open for business year round. For good or ill, we’re still using the 10-on, 2-off schedule of the agrarian age… and as long as we are I will continue to be insanely jealous of our nation’s teachers whenever I drive past on a beautiful summer morning and find them not there. June, July, and August are truly the only three things I miss about teaching… and if I’m perfectly honest with everyone, I’m already looking forward just a little bit to that day in August when they’re stuck back in the grind with the rest of us.
2. “Working families”-based legislation. I’ve noticed this week that the administration is trotting out the whole “working parents” discussion again. Look, I get that having a job and balancing everything else in your life is at best a challenge and at worst an exercise in futility. For working parents, I can understand that taking care of your kids is your first priority. That’s good. That’s how it should be. On the other hand, since I’ve opted not to go that route, I think it needs said that I don’t consider my own top priority items any less important to me than yours are to you. Every time I hear a politician spout something about making life easier for working families, my middle finger gives a little twitch. How about we come up with a few programs that makes life easier for employees in general rather than just a subset of the group? Trust me, I don’t value paid time off or a more flexible schedule any less than you do just because my dependents have four legs and fur (or scales).
3. Lack of focus. Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States issued a unanimous ruling that law enforcement could not unilaterally search your cell phone without a warrant or in the most extreme of emergency situations. Read that again. It was a unanimous opinion of the court. A win for personal privacy doesn’t get much more decisive than that. But we’re collectively paying more attention to grown men kicking a ball or whatever celebri-skank did something whoretastic this week. Whether you agree with my assessments of daily events or not, I’d consider it hugely helpful if we could all at least try to pay a little attention to something beyond what’s “reported” on TMZ or ESPN.
English bulldogs are freaks of nature. I mean that in the nicest way possible, but the fact remains that anatomically they’re a creation that would not exist in nature. That’s what makes them endearing to “bulldog people,” but it’s also what makes them prone to all manner of genetic illness.
Currently, my Winston is battling another skin infection. That’s nothing unusual. Bulldogs seem born with skin problems that only get worse as they age. At nearly seven, my boy isn’t a youngster by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been dealing with skin troubles with him since he was 2. The challenge this time is that the bacteria causing the infection has progressively gotten more resistant to typical antibiotic treatments. In fact we’re basically down to the last one that the vet considers reasonably “safe.” Beyond minocycline there are two others we could have used, but their side effects in dogs are generally worse than what they cure. Other options include a couple of daily IV therapies, but those have the unfortunate side effect of destroying the kidneys while they save the skin. That didn’t sound like a worthwhile trade off.
The long term prognosis for Winston fighting off this particular infection is officially “We’ll see how things look after he’s run the full three week course of antibiotics.” That’s not what I wanted to hear, but if there’s anything I appreciate in a vet it’s giving me an unpleasant truth head on and then working into what options are left from there.
Winston has come through infections before, he’s come back better than I could have hoped from leg surgery, he even fought off a MRSI about 18 months ago. I also know each infection and operation and round of meds take their toll. I’m not ready to start thinking about the decisions I’ll need to make if the options box dwindles down to medicine-induced kidney failure or an infection that will slowly spread across every inch of his skin and make him miserable in the process. We’re not there yet, but the vet’s Very Serious Voice on the phone this afternoon told me that we’re not as far off from there as I’d like to be.
All I can really say as we sit and wait is that I’m determined he’s not going to be left to suffer out of my own misguided desire to keep him around forever. But we’re not there yet and I’ll just have to burn that bridge when we get to it.
For the first time since I registered to vote in 1996, I’m sitting out an election day. It’s not that I don’t think primaries are important or I want to opt out of the system. One of the fun facts of life of being, as Maryland puts it, “nonaligned”, is the fact that there is basically nothing for an independent to vote for or against on primary election day. Annoying as it is, I can understand the thought process behind only allowing registered members of a political party vote in that party’s primary. It would basically be like letting me vote for mayor of Denver while living here in wild, wonderful Ceciltucky. Sure, I might have an opinion, but since I live outside that particular jurisdiction, it would mostly be an academic exercise.
The fact is, I don’t want to be associated with the right wing tea partiers any more than I want to be associated with the left wing socialists. There isn’t a national political party that speaks to my special blend of beliefs and opinions… and I’d rather sit this one out than get myself painted by the broad brush of either party. With neither side able to show the leadership qualities of the common groundhog, I’d hate for a moment to even give even a vague impression that I support one side or the other when the reality is I loathe them both, just for different reasons.
So here I sit, on primary election day of my 36th year, counting myself among the ranks of the people who just stayed home. Not because I wanted to. Not as a silent protest. But because primarily speaking, this just isn’t the kind of place where the “nonaligned” have a voice. Maybe that’s just what it means to be an independently minded American in 2014.
Maggie and Winston are two of the great joys of my life. With a few exceptions they’ve been around longer than most of the people I know and frankly I’d rather spend time hanging out with them than most two legged critters. For all the medical bills, late night trips to emergency vets, special foods, and number of times I’ve nearly killed myself stepping barefoot on a toy or pile of sick in the middle of the night, I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be dogs in my home.
With as much affection and regard as I hold for these noble animals, it’s helpful to be reminded from time to time that while dogs can give us the impression of being surprisingly smart and adaptive, they can also be incredibly stupid creatures. Take for instance, my Maggie – the sweetest, most gently disposed Labrador God ever put on this green earth. Since she was a puppy she’s had an innate ability to almost predict my thoughts – which way I’m going to turn, what room I’m headed to, or when dinner is about to be served. This morning, though, I woke up to find she has chewed through my comforter at some point in the night and somehow managed to get her head stuck in the resulting hole. I wish I had the wherewithal at 5AM to snap a picture because it was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever actually seen in person… a 50 pound lab wearing what amounted to a queen sized barber’s cape with a tell-tale look of guilt on her fuzzy little face.
This can only mean at some point in the early hours of the morning, the thought that this was a good idea when through her baseball sized brain. Apparently she’s not as good at independent decision-making as I’d been giving her credit for being. Instead, it just makes me wonder what else she’s up to while I’m catching a few hours of shuteye. Then again, it’s probably one of those things I’m better off not knowing.
I’m fairly sure that somewhere we are enjoined to maintain Sunday as a day of rest. And while I’m sure that’s a fine theory, it adds up to 1/7 of the week where I’m not getting a damned thing done and that plan just isn’t going to hold water. So yes, as we speak I’m blatantly disregarding the command of having a “day of rest.” There’s laundry to do, floors to scrub, a bathroom in desperate need of cleaning, shrubbery that needs cutting back, a dog in need of a bath, and at least two more meals that are going to have to be cooked. That’s just the top few items on the list.
As great as a day of rest every week sounds, it’s just not going to happen. If I’m lucky, I’ll carve out a few days for that a couple of times a year, but getting there once a week is a pipe dream if I’ve ever heard one. There’s no way around my Sundays being filled with ticking things off the long list of shit I didn’t get to in the previous six days. For some reason, I don’t think that breaking a sweat on the sabbath is going to be the sin that pushes me over the edge. Just between you and me, it’s probably not even in the list of top ten sins I’ve committed this week so I’ve got that going for me.
So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to quit pecking at the keyboard and get a few more things done this morning.
Before I crash for the evening I just wanted to say thank you for making today the “most viewed” in the short, but eventful life of jeffreytharp.com.
You guys are the best.
1. Landlording. It’s one of those things that seems like a much better idea before you actually do it. There are those occasional times when everything is good – the rent is paid on time, nothing breaks, and for at least one month you can show a positive cash flow. Then there are all the other times – when you’re replacing a stove, having the whole place painted, fixing problems that people cause because they don’t give a damn since it’s not really “theirs.” Worse, you’ll catch those months when you’re between tenants and every nickel being spend is being taken out of hide. You’re doing all that in the hopes of making it livable as quickly as possible so the cycle can start over and there can be more repairs, more late rent, and more trouble all over again. Let the record show that I’m throughly looking forward to the day I can get out of the landlording business almost as much as I’m looking forward to the day I can get out of the being a tenant business.
2. Permission to speak freely. Jeffreytharp.com has been, is now, and will always be a place that reveres the basic principles of freedom of speech. Since turning the switch on this site, I’ve never had to drop the ban hammer on anyone. I hope that I’m never given cause to do so. With that being said, I’m starting to hear the barest rumble of a rumor that has the potential to curtail what I am at liberty to post and discuss here with you. Whatever comes, you have my personal promise that I will continue to use this site to advocate those issues about which I feel strongly, to discuss the day to day stupidity of life, and yes, even to provide commentary on those things that others wish would just be left alone. I don’t come here looking for a fight, but if one finds me here I suppose I’ll have no choice but to close with, engage, and decisively defeat the threat. Easier said than done, I’d imagine, but still worth doing.
3. Always needing a third thing. It’s not OCD, but having a third annoyance for the week always feels like it round out the post. Sometimes, though, I don’t have a third thing so much as I have a dozen small things that individually wouldn’t rate a mention. That doesn’t make for great reading and it makes for even worse writing, so I’m making an executive decision to skip the third thing tonight. So there.
It was hard to miss the “breaking news” today that the US Patent Office vacated multiple trademarks owned by the historic Washington football franchise. I’m not a fan of the Washington Redskins. In fact I can’t remember the last time I watched a football game from start to finish. It was probably sometime in the 90s. Fortunately, this post is only tangentially related to football because it provides the backdrop for the point I really want to make tonight.
There are a lot of appeals between now and anything that might resemble a name change for the team, but if I were Dan Snyder, I’m pretty sure my plan of attack might go something like this: 1) Halt the sale of all items bearing the Redskins team logo; 2) Discontinue all team related activities – shuttering their training facility, FedEx Field, and offices; 3) Inform the NFL of my intention to sit out the 2014 season rather than being forced by the mob to do business as “Generic Washington, DC Football Franchise.” But then again, I’m the kind of guy who will cheerfully slice off my nose to spite my face.
Look, if you’re offended by the use of the name Redskins, then by all means avail yourself of the opportunity to not purchase a ticket. Show up at the stadium on game day with your protest sign. Send a letter. Do whatever it is you feel you need to do to make your voice heard… but in my final analysis, I get a cold chill every time some random agency of government is allowed to tell us what words are offensive, unacceptable, or otherwise “not nice.” I don’t want government within a country mile of making decisions about what words any one of us can or can’t use, from team owners to town drunks. Words are just words. They’re not imbued with any magical meaning or significance until we chose to give them that meaning.
I have a hunch that if Redskins was really an “offensive” term, we wouldn’t need government to save us from it. It would be reflected by the thousands of empty seats at every home game when when fans were too mortified to show up. I’m not sure when we came up with this idea that we should be able to get through life without ever being offended or having our little feelings hurt, but for my money it’s done us more harm than good.
For the first (and probably last) time in my life, I say this without a hint of sarcasm: Hail to the Redskins!