What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. CVS Caremark. I ordered a refill on a prescription the day before Christmas. As it turns out it was a few days past its expiration, but no worries, the fine people at CVS will contact the doctor’s office for a renewal. A few days later at 7:39 PM they sent me a email that they couldn’t reach the doctor and that I needed to contact the office myself ASAP so they could process the order. No problem, except that 85 minutes later CVS sent me another email cancelling the order “since they hadn’t heard from my doctor yet.” I don’t know what kind of doctor the dipshits at CVS Caremark go to, but mine doesn’t keep office hours at 8:00 on a Tuesday night. Seems a better business practice might be to give a guy until normal business hours to respond.

2. “Single stream” recycling. If you’re going to call it that, maybe it shouldn’t be followed by a lot of exceptions – especially things that you were accepting last month like – shredded paper and plastic bags. How do you think I’m getting stuff to the dump anyway if not in plastic bags? I try to do my bit and separate as much as I can, chuck the food products out into the mulch pile, and generally cut down on what’s going directly our of my house and into the ground. In part I do it because it’s generally the right thing to do. But I also do it because up until now it was pretty easy. In the future it seems paying the extra $7 a month to dump it all as “trash” is probably easier.

3. Dog shit. Look lady, I don’t care if you are blonde and built like a swimsuit model, you’re going to pick up what your dog leaves in my front yard. Yours might not stink, but your dog’s does.

Hitting pause…

In the interest of not committing myself to deliver something I may not feel like doing, I’m going to go ahead and state for the record that my intention over the next few days is to declare an operational pause, take a knee, and not do much writing over the next few days. I really think I could benefit from just turning my brain off and letting the system reset, so that’s the barest sketch of what I’m planning for between now and next week.

As usual, of course, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time and resume posting like a madman. It feel like even odds on whether that will happen or not. It’s hard to imagine four days passing by without something seeming noteworthy.

With that, I’ll wish you all the very best for a merry Christmas and get on about the too-long list of things that need to get don around here before sun up tomorrow.


The inevitable happened today. Somewhere at echelons higher than reality someone decided that there was a TPS Report that just couldn’t wait until after the holidays – that out there in the far reaches of our vast bureaucratic quagmire, some vital piece of information sure to bring democracy, peace, and justice to a troubled world was just laying around waiting to be reported upwards. Rank and high station may have their privileges, but getting dosed heavily by common sense isn’t among them.

What really happened today was a request for information was generated high in the stratosphere, it was typed into the computer and then passed to me “for action.” I immediately rolled my eyes, which is something I spend an inordinate amount of time doing if I can be perfectly honest. I then in turn typed my own message passing the requirement for this very important information down to the next level. When they receive it, someone will roll their eyes and ask what the fuck I’m smoking and then they will write up their own email and send it ever further down the line. Eventually it will reach the desk of some individual who knows at least some of the answer, they’ll write up a response, and then the whole great process gets thrown into reverse – with each level seeking out its own approvals, making a few changes, and then sending it upwards before an answer returns to my desk where I’ll realize that the answer-by-committee bears no resemblance to the question I asked originally. Because time has expired on the clock, that factoid won’t stop me from rolling my eyes and passing it on back up the chain.

It’s a clunky, archaic process at the best of times. Let me just say for the record, sending something out two days before Christmas and expecting a response immediately after the new year is not, by anyone’s definition, the best of times. What it is, however, is a recipe for a systemic failure at almost every level. It’s the operative definition of setting yourself up for failure.

But this is the season of yuletide, when a long dead saint rises up from his frozen tomb and alights onto his sleigh driven by eight super-natural reindeer to distribute toys constructed by enslaved elves to the world’s children. It’s the season of miracles like that… so if you just believe hard enough, maybe anything really is possible.

The darkest evening of the year…

The winter solstice arrives at 11:49 PM EST and with it the longest evening of the year. That means tomorrow there will be fractionally more daylight time than there was yesterday. There are still a few weeks where sunrise will keep getting later in the morning, but that will be offset by gains made in the afternoon.

This is actually the second post I wrote this evening. The first took on an altogether too bleak feel that was neither desired nor intended, but that nevertheless hung over it like a shroud. Take two, here, is an effort to redeem myself by striking a slightly less emo chord.

This time of year always reminds me of a long ago English class and Robert Frost’s melancholic snowy wood. Even now twenty years later Mr. Frost’s words and Mrs. Butler’s voice are stuck firmly in my head on nights like this.

Long, dark nights didn’t bother me much back then, but the older I get the more I find myself in favor of those languid summer nights when twilight seems to hold on for hours. They’re a long way off yet, but by morning we’ll have turned the corner – sometimes that’s enough.

Preserving the illusion…

And so tomorrow we begin Christmas week, or what I affectionately like to think of as Why the Hell Didn’t I Take the Whole Week off Week. During most slow periods I can fiddle around sufficiently to find something to keep myself busy, if not gainfully employed by the strictest definition. The week of Christmas always presents something of a challenge, though. You see, even in the bureaucracy, 95% of the people who are still around are smart enough not to try kicking off anything new – and the 5% who aren’t that bright can safely be ignored until the new year. Even on the off chance that something does come in hot, the chances of the right combination of people needed to resolve the issue satisfactorily actually being available are precisely nil.

It’s been my experience over the years that offices being “open” at all these last two weeks of December is almost a complete fiction. Sure, the lights are going to be on and there are going to be some people milling around for all the good that’ll do. It’s not quite farce, but it is only a step or two above illusion.

Rest assured, friends, I will do my part to maintain that illusion right up until the final buzzer – at which point I will scamper to the exit and promptly forget everything even remotely office related until the new year. And if you think “scamper” was an incorrect word choice, you’ve clearly never seen me leave the building at the end of the day. Only the interest of preserving some semblance of personal dignity keeps me from processing to the door at a flat out run most days. On the day leading into an 11-day weekend all bets are off.

Those days will go fast enough and the grind through 2016 will commence well before I’m ready for it… but in the meantime I’ll do my level best to enjoy every moment between now and then.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Spoilers. That’s what annoys Jeff this week. I feel like I’ve spent more time ducking them then anything other single activity this week.

As a general rule, spoilers for the run of the mill television show or movie don’t bother me all that much. Even when I know where the story ends, I’m usually entertained enough seeing how they get from start to finish. I’m easy to please like that.

The run up to The Force Awakens has been something different. Given how little of the story has been released for public consumption, avoiding spoilers thus far has been relatively easy. Most of the available stories have been fan conjecture and wishful thinking. That got a little more problematic starting with the premier earlier this week, but still information was mostly avoidable as long as you didn’t go looking for it.

With wide release in a few hours, though, all bets are off. New media, old media, and social media channels are going to be filled with disclosures both intentional and unintentional. The Star Wars franchise is going to be near-impossible to get away from over the next sixteen hours.

There’s no force on earth – including snow storms, power failures, floods, fires, or flu that has ever cut me off from consuming mass quantities of electronic information for up to 18-hours per day. It is now, therefore, with great reluctance that I announce the implementation of an electronic media blackout. Effective immediately I am placing an operational pause on reading sources including but not limited to news websites, blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope. While I reserve the right to operate some or all of those applications in a broadcast only mode, I will temporarily cease to be a consumer of information.

That is the level to which I am committed to avoiding the contamination of spoilers before seeing this film. Having taken these steps, I hope you can understand how getting jammed up with who does what to whom in advance might be annoying.

I think you for your kind consideration in this matter and encourage everyone to not be a Homer. We get to have so few of these experiences in real time anymore, so let’s do our best not to ruin the moment.

Pixel envy…

Unlike with some other electronics, I’m not a slavish devotee to having that latest and greatest television set on the market. I bought a highly rated Pioneer 42-inch plasma back in November of 2007 (read about the hilarity that ensued) and have been lugging its heavy carcass around with me ever since. It was state of the art eight years ago and still does a reasonable job, but if I’m honest, it’s getting a little finicky about what peripherals it plays nicely with and the picture quality is suffering. The old girl has seen better days, but considering how often she’s been crated, toted, and banged about, I’m a little impressed she still works at all.

I was willing to keep going along with it until last month when I bumped up the sizes of the set in the bedroom and discovered just how much better the viewing experience was on that new unit. If you’ll forgive the pun, the difference between a new smart LCD and its old, dumb predecessor was quite the eye opener. Sadly, it also means I’m just starting to peck around to decide what features a new “primary” screen should have… which means that sometime in the next three months I’ll have settled in on my actual requirement.

Now that 42-inchs feels like something fit for the bedroom, there’s little doubt that the replacement will be bigger – and I’m sure better in every single way. Still, I hate this part of the process – and wish just a little bit that I wasn’t wired quite as tightly into the compulsion for researching everything nearly to death. It tends to take the fun out of those “spur of the moment” purchase decisions. Still, it will be awfully nice to be able to sit down to watch something and not need to fiddle with every single setting under the picture menu to dial in a decent picture.

I’m afraid I’m about to succumb to a serious case of pixel envy. And you damned well can’t fix that with more cowbell.

The lesser of “who cares…”

It’s the 3,743rd and final Republican primary debate of 2015, where I will once more attempt to will myself into cheering on whatever candidate I can only describe as the lesser of “who cares?” Being a student of history, I can’t help but to compare and contrast the people on stage to the men who’ve filled the chair they seek. It seems to me that there was a time when presidents stood like giants on the national stage – Reagan, Nixon, LBJ, Kennedy, FDR. They were outsized men who used big words and challenged America and Americans to to great things. Watching these debates (on both sides) leaves me with a feeling that there isn’t a candidate out there who’s fit to carry water for any of the bunch.

I don’t for a moment believe America is broken, but I can’t get past the feeling that we’re simply meandering from pillar to post for want of any kind of meaningful leadership. History is replete with examples of the convergence of man and moment, but so very many of the options presented to us are precisely the wrong people at precisely the wrong moment.

In all likelihood in April I’m going to have to hold my nose and push a button for one of these chumps. I’m convinced that’s one of the real reasons so many people are utterly apathetic about politics. I’m informed and can barely get my pulse to register while watching any of the candidates. What chance does someone who only tunes in only a few days before an election have of making a connection – and paying attention long enough to see it through?

Sigh. Let me go tune in to tonight’s edition of Shut Up Jerkface, I’m Shouting Louder than You.

The privacy of Facebook…

So at least one major news outlet is making a big stink that the US Department of State doesn’t include taking a look at the Facebook page of people entering the country – in this case on the now infamous K1, fiancée visa. The official line is that it would be an invasion of privacy, which is the point where their argument starts to lose me.

I’m not at all sure that there is, or should be, any expectation of privacy when it comes to information you share with people on Facebook. The very nature of the platform is that the information is put there so that many people can see it all at once. That’s kind of the point of social media unless I’m missing a mark somewhere.

I don’t guess there’s much chance we can all agree on this, but it seems reasonable to me that the nice bureaucrats over at State could probably take a look around an applicant’s Facebook page and go ahead and rule out those who are friends with ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or any of a number of pretty well known enemies of the state. If it’s sitting right out there on an open source platform and they’re not bright enough to keep that sort of jackassery encrypted, we could at least skim off that proportion of potential terrorists who are not so bright instead of welcoming them with a green card and tax ID.

If you want to be let into the country in order to wrap yourself in its benefits and protections, I’m not at all sure letting the investigator give your online life the once over is any more out of line than expecting you to list your next of kin and a few personal references.