Roll on Columbia…

One of my first jobs after signing on with Uncle’s big green machine took me to a 200 foot tall, 8,835 foot long hydroelectric dam in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re wondering what in the hell, the Army has to do with hydropower, rest assured I was every bit as confused as you are when I showed up. Suffice for now to say it has less to do The Dalles - Overview.JPGwith power generation than it does with navigable waterways, infrastructure development, and having a ready pool of trained engineers available when we went on a national building spree during the Great Depression.

Some dams, I’m thinking about you Grand Coulee and Hoover, are things of beauty in their own right. “My” dam wasn’t what anyone would call pretty. The hulking, squared off mass of concrete, squatted astride the river like the world’s largest cinderblock. It’s real beauty is in the machine itself – it’s 14 General Electric turbines spinning out almost 2 megawatts when they crank the penstocks wide open, the lock that lifts 650 feet worth of barges almost 90 vertical feet , the way the building hums that rises from your feet straight through the top of your head, and the subtle but definite sound of steadily running water when you climb down into the depths of the foundation.

So what’s the point of all this recollection from the Columbia River? Well, as it turns out enough time has passed now that I’m starting to feel just a little bit nostalgic about my time spent on the edge of the high desert. For this son of the east, the Cascades, the Gorge, Portland, it was all a time of being a stranger in a strange land. It was good times, though I was in too much of a hurry to get back east and start my life as a big city DC bureaucrat to realize it then.

I know that still frontier feeling stretch of river is too far from the banks of the Chesapeake for me to ever call it home, but I sure wouldn’t mind passing that way again sometime.

Thanks Hollywood or: The Most Important News of the Day…

I like movies. I don’t like going to the theater to watch them, of course, because people, but still I like the idea of losing yourself to a story for a couple of hours. As much as I like movies, I’ve always struggled a little bit with the “awards show” concept. It’s always struck me as a bit of inside baseball, when the market already does a pretty fair job of telling us what movies are “good” and which ones were “bad.”

Box office receipts aren’t everything, I know. Some movies are made because someone with deep pockets and enough horsepower to get it done want to follow their passion. If you’ve got tens of millions of dollars to spend and that’s what you’ve set your sights on, I say good on you and go with God.

Having a laundry list of insiders telling me what movie was “best,” though, doesn’t really work for me. I find movies, like every other kind of art, to largely be something that largely depends on the eye of the beholder. I like period drama and old masters. That someone else likes comedy and modernism doesn’t make either one of us more right or more wrong.

With all of that said, I’m utterly and completely perplexed by the cry that rose last night from social media and today across the news sites and morning talk programs. I “work live” all day every day and can say with certainly that mistakes happen. You correct them and move on as quickly as possible, which seems to be what they did last night. That it’s something that anyone cares about enough to make it The Most Important News of the Day leaves me with even less faith in humanity than usual. Thanks Hollywood.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mostly they’ve annoyed me in their misguided majority opinion that the most popular style of rifle currently purchased in the United States for sport shooting and home defense is, in their opinion, “most useful in military service.” That would be a fine point of contention, I suppose, if anyone, anywhere actually employed the AR-15 in actual military service… which in my mind is a pretty good indication that military service is, in fact, not where it is most useful.

2. Sympathy for heroin users. My ancestral homeland in far western Maryland and my current home at the norther edge of the Eastern Shore have a lot in common. Both have a small urban center largely surrounded by very small towns and lots of rural land. The other thing they have in common is heroin. Where there’s heroin, from our big cities to our small towns there are apologists for people who use it. They’re sick. They have disease. It’s society’s fault.It’s no different than you and your high blood pressure from the red meat and carbs. Except it’s completely different, of course. Even allowing that addiction is a disease, there are pretty substantial differences. Newspapers aren’t filled with reports of violent crime and property theft because folks with high blood pressure because they couldn’t scrape up the funds for a dose of their medication. I might take a stroke and die, but I’m not apt to sell off the neighbor’s family silver or hold up the nearest liquor store in the process. Our friends the heroin users, though, they’re up to all manner of debauchery to “get their medicine.” You want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out to get a quick score, help yourself. When the bodies that start falling belong to other people or you start thieving, well, my level of sympathy for your plight falls to damned near zero.

3. Mexico. Apparently the Mexican government is upset that we’re going to return to them the unlawful immigrants who they allowed to cross through their country. “But they’re not Mexican nationals,” the foreign minister cries. I suppose that’s one of those things they might should have thought of before letting them cross the entire length of Mexico with a wink and a promise that they were just passing through. Actions, like elections, have consequences.

Plague carriers…

As the Great Plague swept through 17th century London, the mayor ordered households wherein there were plague sufferers marked with a red cross a foot long. It served as a warning to others that those inside were quarantined and exposure meant grave risk both to the individual who risked exposure as well as to the surrounding homes. It was a dramatic gesture and looks great on a movie screen, but of course it probably had next to no effect on reducing instances of plague in the City.

Sitting at my desk listening to the sputum-filled coughing of nearly everyone around me makes me wonder how long until the Public Health Command seals us in and splashes that foot long cross upon the outer door or tries to purify us with cleansing fire. I suppose we’re all plague carriers now, myself included. We’ve spent most of the last month passing this thing between us with no sign of it letting up.

It’s almost like there’s something inherently unhealthy about cramming 30 people into a 25×100 foot windowless box breathing recirculated air for eight hours a day.

Another lost weekend…

This past weekend was beautiful… so I’ve been told. I spent the lions share of it alternating between laying on the couch sleeping, laying in the recliner sleeping, or actually in bed. Sadly, in bed was mostly tossing and turning sporadically until I got too annoyed to keep at it.

Under most other circumstances I feel like I would have enjoyed the kind of four day weekend that was almost completely passed at home. As it is, I don’t remember much of it until my immune system seemed to get its act together yesterday afternoon. As much as I appreciate not spending another day at the office feeling like ass, having something to show for the long weekend would have been much nicer.

As it is, I feel like I’ve somehow been cheated out of my time off – betrayed by my own dirty dealing respiratory system. Yes, I’m aware that sounds just a little bit crazy, but I want my weekend back damnit. Time off shouldn’t count against you when you’re legitimately worried about hacking up a lung.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Fuzzy thinking. I whore my brain out an hour at a a time. Clear thinking and the ability to assimilate large amounts of information into a coherent structure are sort of the baseline level expectation. I think one of the biggest reasons I’ll never be a “drug person” is how much harder it is to take on and process information even when just under the influence of fairly innocuous over the counter medications. Being stoned is fun an all, but I’ll be happy to trade it away for not having to will every single synapse to fire individually in order to get through a complete thought.

2. Taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. If you have something to say, or if you think you have something to say, go ahead and get to the damned point. It’s bad enough that you’re calling me on the telephone, but when you don’t keep it to an absolute minimum amount of time required I’ve already tuned you out around the two minute mark.

3. A Day Without Immigrants. I don’t know anyone who is downplaying the roll immigrants had and continue to have on this country. I don’t know anyone who is arguing in favor of slamming shut the doors to American citizenship forever. What I do know, though, is the Day Without Immigrants protest refuses to make a differentiation between legal immigration and those who have arrived and/or stay in this country illegally. You can flail your arms and shout until you’re purple in the face and you will simply never convince me that I have a moral responsibility to provide for the care and feeding of those here outside the law beyond what is necessary to adjudicate their case and return them forthwith to their country of origin (or next convenient parallel dimension). So you can close all the big city restaurants you want for as long as you want, but I’m going to continue to insist that 1) legal immigration is a net positive overall and 2) illegal immigration should be stopped.

The nagging cough and steady drip…

I’ve definitely acquired some kind of crud. Since everyone at the office seems to be hacking or wheezing with something, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Our cube set up so closely approximates a late 19th century tenement that I’m surprised there aren’t reports of cholera outbreaks from the back of the room.

As sickness goes, the nagging cough and steady drip from my nose is far from the worst thing going around. It’s enough to be obnoxious – and enough to drive me deeper into the arms of Big Pharma to find some relief. The side effect of the OTC cocktail I whipped up, though, is the really delightful feeling of being just shy of stoned through a good portion of the day. I should probably apologize to anyone who got an email from me today. The spelling, punctuation, and even message itself is likely suspect.

I don’t really feel bad and I suppose that is the small mercy. I’m already burning enough sick leave this week on appointments that I’d really like to avoid wasting more of it on actually being sick.