Fridays near the end…

If you ever want to see what a monumental waste of resources looks like, I’d consider the average office on any given Friday between Thanksgiving and New Years to be the perfect place to begin your case study. Sure, there are a few things going on and there may even be an occasional fire that needs dousing, but for the most part, inter-holiday Fridays are more dead air than anything else. 

Some of the problem is structural. The end of the calendar year has three major holidays stacked within six weeks of one another – that jumps to 4 holidays in eight week’s if you include Veterans Day. Still more of the issue traces back to basic personnel practices – specifically to and especially for some offices being staffed by senior people with years of experience whose compensation package includes a maxed out weekly allotment of annual leave. That leads to a lot of people all needing to burn off a large number of vacation days the closer it gets to December 31st. Fridays are a perfect target of opportunity for burning off those accumulated hours.

Even knowing there is a laundry list of reasons why Fridays this time of year are near useless doesn’t contribute much to making them go by any faster when you are one of the unlucky few who isn’t burning off vacation time in eight hours incriments. At worst, these days can be moments of understaffed panic, at best, slow death by boredom. I really have no idea which of the two is worse.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Romaine. After discovering that romaine lettuce was temporarily poisonous to people, anything containing that devil’s weed was unceremoniously yanked from the shelves of grocery stores across the country. That’s fine. E. coli isn’t exactly something most people want spread around. But please, in your haste to throw out all things green, spare a thought for the poor tortoise keepers among you. Even if romaine wasn’t a staple food for my tort, it was an element of the spring mix he got on a fairly regular basis. With romaine being potentially toxic for human consumption, of course spring mix it disappeared from the shelves too… which has left George with a mix of kale, mustard greens, and collards that he is clearly not in favor of based on his attitude for the last several days. The supply is also a lot more limited with people also opting for the “whatever is green” option to meet their salad needs. We’ve reached the point where I’m 100% willing to risk a few measly human deaths to have a happy and well-fed tortoise again. 

2. People. It’s kind of adorable that anyone who knows me thinks I can be guilted into changing my position by showing me pictures of or telling me stories about people. I think my position on people as a group is pretty well known. There are, of course, exceptions and people who I dearly love and highly respect. For the most part, though, I literally can’t even with people. By contrast, though, if you harm one little hair on the head of an animal that’s not culturally accepted as livestock, though, and I’d be happy to melt your face off with a blowtorch.

3. The United States Postal Service. We’re now well into day five of watching my latest prescription refill travel the approximately 40 miles between DC and Baltimore. After two days of lingering around our nation’s capital, the precision tracking app provided by the USPS tells me that it’s once again on the move… of course it neglects to mention where it’s headed or when it may arrive other than blithely saying it will be on my doorstep my 8PM tonight. That seems unlikely since the rest of my mail arrived hours ago and, well, since this is the 2nd soon-to-be-missed delivery estimate. Yes, I can call in a “bridge” request and CVS will front me a few days of meds from a local store – with the requisite $80 co-pay of course – but that’s not the point, really. I don’t think expecting a delivery service that would arrive to me in a more timely manner than if I drove way the hell down to Tampa and picked the order up myself from the warehouse is really anything out of order.

Naw, we don’t need no logistics…

Hey, I know from experience that sometimes logistics can be hard. Getting an item from Point A to Point B in the right quantity at the right time can take a bit of work. When the chips are down and time is a factor, I’m glad I can count on the prowess of the United States Postal Service to let me down hard. 

My well-traveled package

But seriously, an item I ordered landed in Philadelphia last Saturday. In the four days since it has been transferred to Hyattsville, onward to Baltimore, from Baltimore to Washington (where it rattled around the Regional Destination Facility for 6 hours getting scanned repeatedly), back to Baltimore, and reverse coursed back to Washington where it has been sitting since 7:34 this morning. But I suppose I should be confident in the big bold promise of “Delivery by 29 November.”

I mean it’s not like the USPS has been charged with delivering mail and packages for well over 200 years now. Getting a little padded envelope from Philadelphia thirty miles down the road to Elkton is clearly one of the more logistically complex efforts every devised and executed by the mind of man. 

Thank the gods that the package in question absolutely does not contain medications that in any way are responsible for keeping me alive.

Sigh. Apparently, in mail, as in war, even the very simple things are so very hard to do.

Give a little…

It’s Giving Tuesday and despite my well-earned reputation as a Grinch among men, there are causes I feel strongly enough about to break open my wallet. You won’t find any namby pamby feed the starving or house the poor tomfoolery here, though. In keeping with my basic life philosophy that people are generally awful, but animals are amazing, this year’s donations have gone to:

Cecil County Animal Services – Though minimally staffed as an arm of county government, CCAS does phenomenal work as an open-admission shelter. They aggressively pursue partnership opportunities with local rescue organizations and businesses and are supported by a small, but faithful group of volunteers. I haven’t found a way to “just send cash” as this is a government operation, but they maintain an extensive Amazon Wishlist of things the animals in their care need to thrive. This one has a special spot on the list because one of my own herd got his start with them as a failure to thrive medical emergency kitten. 

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – IFAW operates here in the US and in countries around the world, intervening to protect habitat and assist animals in need. In their own words, “Our vision is a world where animals are respected and protected. With offices in 15 countries and projects in more than 40 countries, we rescue individual animals, safeguard populations, preserve habitat, and advocate for a better future.” 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Chesapeake Bay and its watershed is probably the single geographic element that most defines my beloved home state of Maryland. If you’ve never watched the sun come up over the salt marsh, or spent a summer morning working a trotline for blue crabs, or seen a flight of migrating waterfowl drop down on the water, you’re missing out on some of life’s great pleasures that are all too easy to take for granted as a native son. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation describes their work as: “Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 18 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.”

Plumpton Park Zoo – Yes, yes. I know places like zoos and aquariums are controversial. True-believer rabid conservationists will insist wild animals should only be in the wild. That’s a fine theory and if places like Plumpton were sending out expeditions to acquire new exhibits from the four corners of the globe, I’d agree. The fact is, most of the animals in a place like this have never set foot in the part of the world where “they’re supposed to be” and can never be reintroduced to that world. They’re here, now. They need supporters and advocates here, now. In a part of the world where most people will only ever see run of the mill domestic animals and pets, places like Plumpton Park play a key role in exposing a population to animals that they will never see outside of a television program. If we can use that as a base to instill an interest in wildlife and wild places, not supporting them would be irresponsible. 

There are a number of other organizations that I like to donate to throughout the year – as specific needs arise in their programs. Those are usually more targeted donations, aimed at helping one particular animal or program along the way. The point isn’t just to single these four out so much as it is to encourage you to find a cause you can get behind – whether that’s with your time, your money, or you social media platform.

There’s no lack of worthy causes, so what are you waiting for?

Breaking up with Amazon…

I’ve always wanted to like Amazon. A million years ago they were a place where you could find all sorts of reading material that your small local bookshop didn’t carry or that they didn’t have much interest in getting for you. Time passes. Things evolve. Amazon is now all things to all people – literally where you can go to but everything including the kitchen sink, listen to streaming radio, or find a bit of in-house produced “prestige television.”

The more Amazon has grown, the larger their catalog of merchandise has become, the worse the overall experience of dealing with them is. Over the last 12 months I’ve received more damaged items and made more returns to them than I have in my entire time as an Amazon customer up to this point. It’s a pity, because Amazon is just so damned convenient. 

I won’t go so far as to say I’m parting company with Amazon – but I can go out of my way to make them a vendor of last resort. Even if that means a bit more inconvenience and expense for me, I’m just petty enough to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve cancelled my subscriptions and know that means spending extra time to find books coming from Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or searched out from individual used book shops. It means either shlepping out to the local Petco for dog and cat food or finding more consistent online sellers. It means getting use to paying for 2-day shipping in some cases. 

Sure Amazon’s customer service is always quick with a refund or offering up a replacement, but being johnny on the spot with those things shouldn’t be the norm. If they’re not interested in delivering a product not beat to shit or spewed open inside the carton during shipment, they’re not interested in hanging on to at least this one customer. Sure, losing a couple thousand dollars a year in revenue isn’t going to break Amazon, but it’s the one voice I know capitalism understands when echoed by enough mouths… and all because the world’s greatest retailer can’t be bothered by a bit of proper product packaging.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

  1. Facebook. For good or bad, Facebook loves showing you memories every day. I keep noticing that there are posts from years ago that indicate having two or three comments, but in some cases only one of those comments may be showing. I’m assuming that means these  comments were made by someone long ago and far away who has either left Facebook or has otherwise exited my online circle of friends… which begs the question of why Facebook is even bothering showing you a notification of something I can’t actually see?
  2. Thanksgiving apologists. Some sections of social media will spend this week telling us that celebrating Thanksgiving is wrong and a mark of “privilege.” To those people, I will only offer words of wisdom from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s very own Spike, who reminded us with fair historical accuracy that, “I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians… You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. It’s what Caesar did, and he’s not goin’ around saying, ‘I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it.’ The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.” If you’re looking for someone to apologize for Thanksgiving and for American history writ large, boy did you come to the wrong place. 
  3. Social media experts. According to “experts” social media makes us sad, or angry, depressed, homicidal, suicidal, or any of a hundred other descriptors. The thing is social media doesn’t really “make” us any of those things. We humans, with our fancy pants free will, allow social media to have an impact on what we think or feel. If you’re using a completely optional product that causes you so much angst, it feels a little bit like a good time to exercise a little self determination instead of casting around for something or someone else to blame for your own problems. Then again, personal responsibility is never going to be cool or sexy, so just go ahead and carry on blaming social media I guess.

But her email…

New reports suggest that Ivanka Trump used a personal email address to conduct official business. If true, those reports are a problem for her and for the administration.

So here I am, a card carrying Republican, in defiance of what social media says I’m supposed to say, arguing that the allegations should be investigated. Hand the records over to the FBI and allow them to do their job. I expect the House of Representatives, under Democratic control in the next session, will also want to hold their own investigation. That’s fine. Conducting such inquiries is a prerogative of the House. 

That said, I expect Republicans to observe the same standards that they did in their investigation of Secretary Clinton in demanding a through search of all pertinent files. Likewise, I expect House Democrats to largely observe that sending emails outside official government platforms “isn’t really that big a deal.” If Republicans pass the buck, they’re negligent. If Democrats rail that personal email is now suddenly important, they’re hypocrites. 

Of course there are fine points of detail that the media doesn’t bother with – things like classification level of the email,  privately owned server housing classified material, whether tens of thousands of emails were destroyed before they could be reviewed by the investigators, etc. They’re perhaps esoteric details, but they matter in the course of deciding if something is a legitimate “big deal” or if it’s Washington-issued “nothing burger.”