What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Memory. My memory isn’t what it was. Although it was never particularly strong, I find I need to write down ideas more quickly now than before. At least twice this week while driving I had ideas that passed the “this would be something good to write about” test. Sadly between the time I had that good idea and when I safely parked the Jeep, the thought had completely flown. It seems I’m going to have to start sending voice notes to myself just to stay on top of random thoughts throughout the day – and *that* is a thought that annoys me to no end.

2. Rain. Enough with the goddamned rain already. I’ve had to mow the grass three times in the last 10 days just to keep the place from being completely overrun. I’m not looking to turn the mid-Atlantic into a desert or anything, but a little moderation would go a tremendous way towards letting the yard be something other than a muddy hot mess.

3. Thoughtcrime. I’ve come to the conclusion that despite what good it may also bring, social media is essentially toxic – or at least it has become toxic at the hands of its users. Wide swaths on the left and right are committed to their ideal of thought purity where anyone expressing any except the conventional and sanctioned opinion must be set upon and beaten down by one side or the other. Deviate from approved goodthink and the thinkpol will be johnny-on-the-fucking-spot to make you pay for it. There’s no interest in rational discussion or differing opinion. Thoughtcrime must be rectified until goodthink prevails. At the risk of being declared an unperson in the eyes of social media, I’ll continue to live my ownlife. To do otherwise in the face of popular adherence to minitrue orthodoxy is cowardly and fundamentally doubleplusungood.

The week…

This week is something of a scheduling oddity due to a confluence of unrelated events. It features a federal holiday, a telework day, ​half a day off for a dental appointment, and day of annual leave “just because.” That leaves exactly 1.5 days of time physically spent in the office. On one hand, of course, that feels like 1.5 days too many, but on the other it feels like just about right amount.

Of all the things I bitch about you’ll very rarely find the amount of time off I have in my hip pocket making the top 50, let alone the top ten. I know exactly how lucky I am to have that big beautiful stack of vacation days and sick leave sitting there waiting for me to use them.

Right now I’m making up lost ground to tend to appointments I didn’t have time to make in the first four months of the year and burning off days here and there to do things that are just more easily accomplished on weekdays than weekends. After the planned 5-day 4th of July weekend, the burn rate will settled down to a more sustainable rate for a few months. I suppose every week can’t be exceptionally short.

Those full, 5-day work weeks through the height of summer are going to make for a difficult adjustment. Sigh. I need to do something exceptional and get myself a nice time off award in order to stave off the madness just a little longer.

The happy dream of the future…

It’s another day after an extended weekend and another day where I have very little on my mind. Spending a maximum amount of time at home tending the yard, tending the animals, sunk deeply into a book, or just generally avoiding people is clearly good for calming my brain even at the cost of having anything scathing to write about. It’s probably worth the trade off.

Before giving a mighty shrug of indifference I considered a number of topics for today – North Korea, border security, Starbucks, social media, and a few others. It really comes down to not being able to gin up much of an interest in any of them. That might be when the real truth hit me – although I have a passing interest in wide swath of topic areas, there are only a handful I actually give a damn about on a regular basis. That number gets even smaller when you whittle the time down to any individual day.

That’s all a round about way of saying that when it comes right down to it, I simply lack the bandwidth or interest to care about most issues. I don’t and won’t judge someone for what they choose to care about, but I’ll save my outrage and effort for the ones that are important to me. It’s not personal, just the reality of having limited time and resources and wanting to allocate them in a way that best serves my own interests.

There is something deeply appealing to me about pulling up the drawbridge and applying the focusing exclusively on whatever is of interest in the moment. That version of my reality is a number of years off yet, but it’s the happy dream of the future that sustains me.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Designer kindling. The internet just tried to sell me a $50 cardboard box of L.L. Bean branded kindling. The biggest problem I have with any of this is that if Bean has bothered to assemble a 35 pound box of kindling and put it on their sales rack, more than one person has actually bought it. That means there are people out there among us that spent $50 to have kindling shipped directly to their door. It feels like there are so many better ways to start a fire – shred a bit of newsprint, tear off some parts of that empty cereal box, soak a few cotton balls in petroleum jelly, or put a match to some of the lint you cleaned out of your clothes dryer. Throw a few small, dry sticks aboard and you could have saved yourself $50 plus shipping. Then again, you’d have missed out on the chance to impress your guests with your big box of designer kindling. The deeper we wade into it, the more I really do hate the 21st century.

2. Freedom of Speech. No, the NFL is not taking away anyone’s “free speech.” The First Amendment specifically prevents government from restricting speech, so unless you live in some Bizzaroland where you’re being governed by the commissioner and franchise owners, you sound like a ranting lunatic when you make that argument. The league, like most other business, is identifying what they deem acceptable behavior in the workplace. Knowing those conditions, people are then free to work for the NFL or not. As it turns out, even millionaires aren’t exempt from having a few limits placed on what they can say and do at the work place. After all, if it weren’t for those kind or rules, who in your office would decide that their version of “free expression” was dispensing with pants for the duration of their 8-hour shift?

3. LED bulbs. Over the last 3 years I’ve worked steadily to replace all the incandescent light bulbs on the homestead with LEDs. There’s been a surprisingly respectable reduction of power consumption (and corresponding reduction in cost) over time. This week, the bulb in one of the garage door openers went out and I dutifully replaced it with one of the spare LEDs I had laying around. It turns out there’s enough wattage running through the opener even when it’s “off” that it keeps the bulb lit at what I’m guessing is about 10% of it’s full output. It’s probably not enough to burn the house down, but it’s enough to be aggravating. I’d rather have a old-fashioned bulb burning for 5 minutes than a fancy new LED that burns all day every day until the end of time.

Divisible by ten…

Every year I’m surprised at the end of May when I find myself inexplicably even more irritable than usual. Like salmon returning up river to die, the run up to June comes on without me consciously taking notice of it. Or rather not taking note of it until I sit down and ask myself why I’m dramatically more agitated that normal.

Yes, friends, you guessed it. It’s birthday time again. You see, the fare that accompanies the traditional American birthday is just a little bit of personal hell as far as I’m concerned. A room full of people, dumb hats, forced polite chatter – it sounds perfectly awful. It’s more tolerable when I’m not at the center of it, but I’d just as soon the day slide astern with as little fuss as possible.

It does explain why I’ve largely been feeling “off” this last week or so. Once you’re past 21 – or maybe 25 if you’re really excited about being able to rent a car – the whole exercise of birthday celebrating takes on a decidedly “so what” flavor. Maybe that flavor is even worse this year because it’s one of the big ones divisible by ten.

I take more than a little comfort in knowing it will be past soon and once that happens my mood will improve dramatically if I can go out on a limb and use past performance to predict future results.

By 35…

I’d never really thought of MarketWatch as a leading newsmaker, but after their social media post noting that “By 35, you should have twice your salary saved, according to retirement experts.” They’ve experienced their 15 minutes and then some.

The thing is, if you’re contemplating what it takes to achieve a “normal” retirement at the “normal” age in the “normal” way, their post isn’t broadly off the mark. Their point, beyond being something that seems to beggar belief to millennials, is that if you ever want to retire in the traditional sense of the word, you need to plan for it… and more importantly you need to save for it. Only you know for sure what right number – 2x, 10x, or 50x your annual salary invested – is going to meet your needs at any given time along your glide path.

“But,” you say, “Everything is so expensive. I have loans, and bills, and kids, and a master’s degree in advanced basketweaving. I can’t save anything.”

That’s fine. In many cases those expenses came along with decisions you made. That means you placed a premium on those other options rather than building a stable platform for retirement. It means you’re going to have to work past the traditional retirement age or contemplate a significant lifestyle change in order to realign you financial priorities. In some cases, especially for those who decide the whole long-range planning things is just too hard, you may have to accept that there’s a good chance you’re going to die in harness.

I got my first “grown up” job at 22. Making about $30K a year, paying rent, a car note, household bills, buying groceries, and all the other expenses that come along with being a grown ass man. It sucked. Money was always short, but before I saw a nickel of it in my checking account $25 of every check that first year went into my retirement account. Let me be clear on this – to me, back then, $50 was a shit ton of money to “do without” from month to month. There were a lot of things I could have spent that cash on to make life a little more civilized and comfortable that first year. The thing is, even at 22, when I still believed I was on my way to a long and fulfilling teaching career, I knew I didn’t want to still be touching America’s youth when I was in my 70s.

Here’s the kicker: Life isn’t easy. It’s full of hard decision, medical emergencies, and events that don’t work out quite as you had planned. Take it from a guy who changed careers, lived through five regional or cross country moves in 18 years to follow better opportunities, and then took a bath on a house he bought at the height of the real estate bubble. I know this shit isn’t easy.

There are precisely 300 million websites out there that can help you develop the mindset and skills that make retirement a thing that’s possible. But it means you’re going to have to do more hard work and educate yourself on the topics and the tools available. If you’re sitting around waiting for someone to do it for you while shitposting on Twitter, well, I guess you’re right – retirement is definitely never going to happen.

The so what…

For the last few days I’ve seen a lot of people asking why anyone cares about a Royal wedding – or really why do we here in the States care at all about the Royal Family.

I can’t answer that question as far as why you should be interested, but as for me, I’m an unapologetic, unreconstructed Anglophile. I watched because no one does pomp and ceremony like the British. Even a “small” private wedding (i.e. not an official State occasion) demands a herculean marvel of planning. Trust me, as a glorified wedding planner myself I know these things.

So much of what makes the British who they are also makes we Americans who we are. Our shared past as mother country and far off colony is imprinted on our national DNA – the shared history, laws, and blood ties are those things that bind us together across the Atlantic.

Lastly, as a life-long student of history, I’m in awe of an institution that stretches back in an (almost) unbroken succession for over a thousand years. From our place here at the bleeding edge of the 21st century, I find nearly anything that stands the test of millennia something of remarkable interest.

If you think of it as just a wedding between some minor foreign prince and a Hollywood starlet, I can see why you’re not interested. But frankly, the spectacle was worth watching just to get an extended look at the architecture and design of Windsor Castle and the St. George’s Chapel. The fact that it put a large part of the pomp, pageantry, and nobility of the United Kingdom on display for the camera is just a perk.

So, in conclusion, God Save The Queen.