What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Hard right. Since Mr. Trump has bailed out of the primary debate this week as part of his ongoing “strained relationship” with Fox News, I’ve been quite literally stunned with the number of times I’ve run across posts labeling Fox a part of the “left wing media establishment.” I get my news from a lot of sources, both domestic and international, and thinking of FNC as a lefty mouthpiece just boggles the mind. See, that’s the real problem with the current Republican party. If you’re not in lockstep on abortion, marriage equality, and Jesus, well there’s just no room in the party for you. Sorry gang, but I’m going to call bullshit on that. I’m a Republican the same way Reagan was a Republican. The same way Goldwater was a Republican. The same way Eisenhower was a Republican. What I’m not is a fanatic who assumes mine is the One True Way. I’m a Republican. We use to be a “big tent” party and we could be again, if only we the rest of us have the personal courage to stand up and tell the dogmatic hardliners to GTFO. Otherwise we might as well fold the tent and go on back to the house, because the days of expecting a platform of “be like me or else” winning at the national level are profoundly numbered.

2. Underutilization. There’s not many jobs I’d consider myself too proud to do. From slopping barns, to stacking hay, flipping burgers, dropping fries, parking cars, accounting for tarps and body bags, ordering hundreds of thousands of tons of ice, or managing 1000-person events. I’ve done all of them and too many more to bother listing. The point isn’t that I’m too proud to do any of these things. The point is that it makes absolutely no economic sense for me to some of them. There’s always an opportunity cost that no one takes into account. Because I’m schlepping buckets of rock salt, that means there are five or six other things that aren’t getting done in a timely manner – things that generally tend to require thought, analysis, and problem solving. With half a career’s worth of experience behind me, my services don’t come cheap. The all-in “fully burdened” cost of having me on the clock is something approaching $100 an hour. Whether that money is spent on turning ice into water or on making sure the uber-boss gets the information he wants is decided by someone else. I’ll go where and do what I’m told, but I’ll always wonder why we so rarely seem to take the time to match the skill set with the person instead of just grabbing the nearest body and making it fit.

3. Cities. Watching the news out of Baltimore all week and wondering how in seven hells they’ve managed to spend an entire week tinkering around with their plows and not give every street at least a courtesy pass with one of their trucks. Yes, cities are densely packed and often streets are narrow, but still. Come on. You’ve had a week to give everyone at least a fighting chance at getting out of their frozen prison. I live in a subdivision in what might charitably be called an out of the way location. By Sunday evening we’d had enough of a route cut that someone with 4-wheel drive could safely navigate out to our principle access road. By Monday night it was largely down to blacktop. I’m simply perplexed that a major American city – especially one prone to snow in the winter – has this much trouble figuring out what to do. I avoid Baltimore as much as humanly possible, but in this case I’m throughly annoyed by a city government that seems largely made up by the gang that can’t shoot straight.

Most foul…

I went on a bit of a tirade today. It wasn’t the career dissipating type, mercifully. Surprisingly enough it had absolutely nothing to do with the office. It didn’t come flying out of my mouth until I was safely ensconced at the house, settling in with a hot meal, and relying on the glowing box to give me a 45 minute break from really needing to think about anything.

That’s not how it played out, of course. What really happened was I sat down, attempted to flick on iTunes, discovered that Apple TV couldn’t communicate with my computer and then spent the next 30 minutes doctoring my Mac Mini out of a startup loop with my temper rising more with each passing minute and failure of the damned dirty contraption to “just work” as advertised.

By the time I coaxed the whole set up back to life, iTunes found my external hard drive, and I was again ready to sit down with a hot dinner, the meal had gone stone cold, I could feel the blood racing through my temples, and I’d apparently been shouting loud enough to frighten both the dogs to the other side of the house and the tortoise under a log.

It clearly wasn’t my finest hour and my mood is still most foul. It doesn’t bode well for the balance of the week.

When four equals eight…

I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the extra four hours off this morning. I never turn my nose up at free time off. That being said, four hours is just an awkward amount of time. Given the passible but not clear state of the local roads, my commute in is going to take an hour. Given that the average driver is stupid and there will undoubtedly be more than one driver on their way home this afternoon that puts it into a snow bank, my drive home will likely be over an hour. At a commute to work ratio of less than 1:2, if you’ll excuse the phrase, it just feels like something of a waste of time – as if we’re opening the doors today just so someone can say “yes, we’re open,” without having much concern for whether or not anything actually happens inside those doors.

Liberal leave – time off for which pre-approval isn’t required – is an option. Due to the peculiarities of Uncle Sam’s timekeeping regulations, though, under these circumstances one can’t combine the 4-hour delay with an additional four hours of liberal leave. If you’re going to stay home, those four hours in the afternoon are going to cost you a full eight hours of vacation time. That was a hard lesson learned.

So now the roads could be running with lava and there could be a troll under every bridge between here and there, but damned if I’m going to spend eight to get four. The math just doesn’t work, so I’ll go in, eat lunch, check some email, bitch about the snow, and then schlep home. Not exactly a recipe for productivity, but I’m sure it counts on someone’s report card as a full day’s work.


I can’t speak for anything beyond the field of view that stretches a couple of hundred yards on either side of my own driveway, but from all outward appearances the county has done a respectable job at getting things scrapped down to pavement. The fine exurbanites in the neighborhood have been diligently blowing, plowing, shoveling, and salting for the last three days. The whole place looks about as much like Stepford as anyone could ever want.

Being the hermit I am, hanging out at the house for the last two and a half days hasn’t exactly felt like a burden. It hasn’t actually felt like much more than a normal weekend, really. Now there’s an impromptu three-day weekend and curiosity is getting the better of me. The two winding back roads leading out of my little slice of Americana roll past farms and fields and a few sections of deep woods. In fair weather there’s a decided charm to it.

In the current other-than-fair environment somehow I doubt that they’re quite as inviting. I can think of two or three places on both routes where things are probably still sitting over the side or in the ditch from sometime yesterday. The whole county can’t be Stepford. I forget that sometimes. Maybe this afternoon I’ll fire up the four-wheel drive and have a look at what the rest of this mess looks like from outside the warm and toasty.

Taking advantage of the captive audience…

Most of the people who read this blog are a captive audience tonight. I feel like I should use the opportunity to say something insightful or at least drive up the weekend’s hit count.

This is the first snow since I took possession of the new homestead here and most of my stray thoughts tonight are given over to how the place will handle the weather, how robust the neighborhood electric grid will be once the wind cranks up, why they built this place without a secondary heat source, and generally coming up with ways to entertain myself for the next couple of days. Somehow I think that regardless of circumstances I’ll manage to find something to while away the hours.

If you don’t hear from me in a few days you’ll know the lights went off and took my painfully weak cell signal with them. So far as I can tell that’s really the only down side of living back here off the beaten path… and it’s a problem I’m doing my best to remedy in the coming weeks but that will come too late for this particular party.

Stay warm. Enjoy a day or two of enforced seclusion however you choose to spend them. I’ll see you once we get started with the big melt. Or maybe before, depending on how quickly boredom sets in and other circumstances.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Flint River water. Look, if I open my spigot and the resulting water is brown and filled with particulates, I’m not going to drink it no matter what local officials tell me about its safety. That’s exactly what I don’t hear from news reports coming out of Michigan. There are plenty of reports though of people who continued who were drinking away, despite what some might consider an obvious problem with the water… and now suddenly they’re surprised by the spate of health issues that have resulted. I’m afraid these Michiganders have fallen victim to two fallacies: 1) The government is looking out for your best interests and 2) Anyone else has ultimate responsibility for what you put in your body. While there is very clear blame to be laid on the state and local government in this case, there’s more than enough to spread around to individuals who failed to exercise their own personal responsibility in protecting their health and wellbeing.

2. A report out of the National Transportation Safety Board calls for the total ban of cell phones while driving, claiming it’s a distraction. Well bugger off. Everything inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle that’s not the steering wheel, gear shift, accelerator, and brake pedal is a distraction. The radio is a distraction. That drive-thru grease-burger is a distraction. Crying children in the back seat are a distraction. Bees flying through an open window are a distraction. So while we’re going, let’s ban all the distractions and save so many, many lives. We’ll do away with radios and drive-thrus, crying children and roll-down windows. We’ll cover the damned cars in bubble wrap and install an engine governor ensuring they can never go faster than 15 miles per hour. Fine, safety is important. While hurtling around in a one ton metal bullet we should all be paying attention to what we’re doing. What I don’t understand is what on earth anyone thinks passing one more law making a specific subset of distracted driving illegal (which in many jurisdictions it already is) will really do. Prohibition didn’t stop drinking. The war on drugs didn’t stop drug use. I have a hard time believing a ban on cell phones is going to stop people from checking that next text message. Don’t even get me started on the jackassery of how anyone might plan to enforce such legislation once it’s law.

3. The choices. Despite my personal preference for one of the other alternatives it appears more and more likely that 364 days (plus a leap year) from today, America is going to inaugurate a socialist, an unindicted felon, a megalomaniac billionaire, or a former Canadian citizen as President of the United States. Let that sink in for a moment if you will. I could launch into a long rant about how we got here, but frankly we’re more or less stuck with this band of misfits in 2016. My real question, the one that’s going to haunt me in my sleep, is how we get well from here. What’s it going to take to find some legitimate leadership in America in 2020 or are we henceforward and forever doomed to have such pretenders enthroned as the heirs of Washington and Jefferson?


If spontaneity were measured on a scale of 1 to 100, I’d rate myself somewhere around a -36. I like it when there is a plan. It provides order in the face of a chaotic world and clearly delineates options and deflection points where things could go astray. A good plan is a thing of beauty.

Since time immemorial my weekly plan has designated a 45 minute block of Saturday morning for carrying out the week’s primary sustenance acquisition. Given the onrushing storm that’s being hyped without end as Snowpocalypse 2016: The Revenge of Global Warming, planning for a Saturday grocery run seems somewhere between overly optimistic and potentially foolhardy. That means there needs to be a deviation from the schedule in order to pick up fruit and vegetables, meats, coffee creamer, and the rest of the assortment of items that made the cut this week.

Sure, the plan for the week makes allowance for deviations, but now it’s put me in a position where I’m going to have to fight the masses who are religiously unprepared for a minor disruption in their supply chain in order to pick up my basic groceries. While I could ride our a day or two of snow without putting a dent in the canned goods stockpile, fresh food on hand his just better all around. Sadly, it means a direct confrontation with the bread, eggs, and toilet paper crowd sometime in the next 48 hours.

It’s going to be stupid and angry making and precisely the kind of thing a decent plan should prevent. I’m going to have to reevaluate the whole damned schedule now.

Seditious thoughts…

There’s no way to better be assured the long weekend is over and you’re back to business than spending two hours locked in a meeting. That’s especially true when your speaking roll takes up about 1/240th of the allotted time. It leads to a lot of looking around, checking to see in anyone has fallen asleep, and repeatedly jabbing a pen cap into your own thigh in an effort to make sure you aren’t the one who nods off.

My feelings about meetings are fairly well known. Over the course of a career I can count on one hand the number of meetings that were really worth having or couldn’t have been more effectively dealt with in an email or by just sending out the slides. Sitting there, glazed eyes staring blankly at whoever happens to be sitting across from me, my mind wanders. There are a few other people who seem obviously bored. Others are giving a good account of paying attention. I wonder if it’s just me whose mind has slipped its tether and is wandering unescorted from idea to idea without purpose or destination.

I wonder if I’m the only one who’s attention span isn’t up to the task at hand. A few seem to be held in rapt attention, hanging on every syllable while it’s taking every bit of rapidly decaffeinating will power I can muster just to keep my chin from dropping slack to my chest.

We all proceed as if things are as they should be and the happy fiction is maintained for another day. I can’t imagine the furor that would erupt if one brave soul were to stand up and call the bloody great waste of time out for what it is. In fact I’ll probably be forced to give up my Senior Bureaucrat Secret Decoder Ring for having the audacity to speak aloud of such seditious thoughts.

Sigh. The lies we tell ourselves.


Every time I hire a plumber I’m struck with a moment of wondering why I’m paying good money to have someone do things I could do myself. Then I generally remember that I’ve probably tried, and failed, to do the work myself and that’s why I called the plumber in the first place. Yes, they’re expensive. Yes, they disrupt the household. Yes, there are other things I’d rather be spending my money on. Then again, I do like indoor plumbing so there’s the rub.

With time and practice, trial and error, I don’t doubt there’s any system in this house that I couldn’t eventually learn to repair in its entirety. While I have many skill sets, though, plumbing and electrical aren’t currently among them. Maybe they should be, but they’re not.

In most cases it boils down to the value of time. Some small things are easy enough, can be whipped out in an hour and life can return to normal. Others, well, that’s when it pays to know what your own time is worth and be willing to farm out the jobs that are going to eat up too much of it.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets when I say that if you build a giant office complex at the end of a peninsula and then fill it with people, there are only going to be a limited number of ways people can get and their cars and drive away from that facility at the end of the day. When you close some of those already unlimited number of exits things get worse. When you additionally closed one of the few that is usually open just in time for peak traffic, well, you get thousands of people clogging every feeder road fighting to measure progress towards the gate in feet rather than inches. I get that shit happens, but when it does I feel like someone would have a plan to address it – like maybe opening up one of the long shuttered gates just for the day and just for outbound traffic. Being the considerer of worst case scenarios that I am, I’m abjectly horrified at the prospect of what a real honest to God emergency evacuation of this place would look like when just closing one single gate can leave traffic gridlocked for over an hour.

2. The death of a dream. With my 1.6 billion dollar dream now laying in ashes, divided to those with better luck in California, Tennessee, and Florida, I suppose it’s back to building wealth the old fashioned way – piling money regularly into a well-balanced, low-fee retirement vehicle. It’s not nearly as sexy or exciting as winning the Powerball, but it’s something… and statistically way more likely to pay out, though I think my newest ambition to retire early to a 17th century Scottish grousing estate may have to be shelved for the time being.

3. Extemporaneous speaking. Back when dinosaurs rules the earth and I was a student we were required to deliver “off the cuff” presentations. Being able to give a talk without the benefit of notes was something they assured us would be of the utmost importance in whatever fictitious versions of the “real world” they’d concocted in their heads. In the actual world I inhabit, extemporaneous remarks have almost never come into play. Instead of mastering the content there’s a constant stream of requests for notes, bullet points, or an entire script no matter how mundane the topic at hand. Maybe having that seamless, well-reasoned, and articulate messages is reassuring to other people around the table, but for the guy putting the words in your mouth it never rises above “vaguely unsettling.”