I’ve commented on it before, but every time I come down with some kind of bug, I can’t help but be reminded of all the commercials, social media posts, and general sense that there’s something called a “man cold,” some kind of received wisdom that says men are somehow unwilling or unable to function when laid low by a head full of congestion. I’m sure it follows from the contemporary school of thought that wants to “smash the patriarchy” and paint all things masculine as evil, bad, and wrong, but that should probably be a different post.
I find the whole “man cold” line of thinking particularly odious as I’ve gone through the last couple of days getting up, feeding and watering the critters, making meals, cleaning the homestead, handling the yard work, and schlepping into the office for a day’s work… all miraculously while simultaneously having a cold and being a man.
It occurs to me that for those of you out there who complain about the stereotypical “man cold” and the periodic uselessness of the man in your life, the problem might not be men in general… perhaps your taste in partner is problematic and you’ve simply hitched your individual wagon to the wrong sort of man. Food for thought, I’d think.
It’s harder and probably more politically incorrect to make a meme about that, though… so as usual, this post will surely reflect the minority opinion.
It’s been a minute since the last time I spent a day glued to NOAA weather briefings, memorizing Department of Transportation route plans, and casting a professional eye towards America’s excess bottled water and ice production and storage capacity. It was a gig that required finding ways to say yes as often as possible, but also offering definitive “no’s” when there was no way to get there from here. I mostly enjoyed the work… and I was good at it.
On days when the storm flags are up, I almost miss it. Working hurricanes was one of the few times in my career I could draw a straight line between the work and the outcome. It was more than editing version 26 of the next set of PowerPoint slides. Getting personnel and supplies marshaled and delivered to the people and places where they were needed was possibly the only time in my long career I’ve felt like I was legitimately accomplishing something.
Now, the TV screens are flickering between cabinet secretaries resigning under fire and the arrival of what should be a routine, if not trivial, tropical storm along the Gulf Coast. With unseasonably high water on the Mississippi, a few feet of storm surge, and the potential to drop ten or more inches of rain in a few hours, Barry isn’t an unusual storm… but he does does arrive bring an unusual confluence of factors that probably don’t bode well for New Orleans and southern Louisiana.
My armchair professional best guess is that the levees will hold this time, but the bigger factor will be the city’s pump capacity. Not even the vaunted pumps installed after Karina are sized to de-water that much sustained rainfall over a period of hours.
I know tonight over at 500 C Street, SW there’s a small army of FEMA personnel and an array of planners from the federal partner agencies making educated guesses on what’s needed, when it needs to get there, and how to deliver it effectively. On days like this, I miss the urgency of that kind of work… but lord, I don’t miss the 16 hour days.
Lawyers. I’ve been running one annually recurring project for the last six years. For five of those six years we plugged along, meeting leadership intent, and getting the job done mostly by convincing a bunch of other organizations to play nicely in this particular sandbox. The key, mainly, was in finding ways to make it easy for all of these other organizations to say yes when we asked for something. Enter the lawyers. This year, we seems bound and determined to create roadblocks where there were none before and actively seek out ways to get to “no.” It seems to me there’s a difference between cautious and diligent and being just another toad in the road. I miss the cautious and diligent advice we use to get.
Amazon. Today I talked to Amazon’s customer service line for the 3rd time about getting my account un-suspended. That’s after spending a few hours pinging tweets back and forth with their Twitter customer service team. Current status is that no one is apparently able to tell me why the people who manage charge back issues haven’t and/or aren’t able to resolve this. I’m told the issue has been elevated to the next support tier… and I should hear “something” in the next 24-48 hours. That’s all well and good, I suppose, until just after that conversation, when Amazon sent me another email claiming that I haven’t returned something they acknowledged I had already returned several weeks ago, so that will be a separate, unrelated fight with my favorite online retailer as soon as our primary issue is resolved. I’m expecting that to be some time in December based on the current rate of progress.
High water. There’s a tropical storm headed for New Orleans. The city is already flooding. Grand total of things that we have collectively learned about living on the low ground since Katrina: Zero.
As a result of the fraud found on one of my credit cards a few weeks ago, the credit card company “charged back” a series of purchases made on the same day as the fraudulent charges. Several of them were legitimate charges that I authorized. One of those legitimate charges was to Amazon.
Amazon contacted me a few days later, asking to get paid. Since it was a valid charge, I provided an alternate payment method and we all moved on. Or I thought we moved on… until last night when I received a notice that my Amazon account was now suspended, pending payment of this same charge (you know, the one that I’ve already paid).
Everything in my account is currently being held in purgatory, apparently – ebooks I purchased, purchase histories, wish lists, ebooks published and linked to that account, including access to tax statements generated by sales on Amazon’s platform. It seems there’s no way known to man to access that material again unless I pay Amazon (for the second time) $225 and assorted cents.
As I commented on Amazon’s Twitter feed yesterday, this isn’t a process to resolve account disputes, it’s good old fashioned extortion. Either you comply with their demands or years worth of your online presence is obliterated.
So I guess I’m at war with Amazon now thanks to their decision to act like third tier thugs instead of one of the world’s largest corporations.
About a year ago I made the decision to stop hammering the front lawn with weed killer, fertilizer, and most of the other treatment products I had been using to keep it golf course green. The studies showing that chemical treatment for lawns is a large contributor to bee and insect die off and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake are sufficient to convince me that I could tolerate a slightly less lush look out front in exchange for not contributing unnecessarily to those issues.
I can report now that the yard definitely looks different than it did a year ago. It’s still surprisingly green, though that’s in part due to favorable sun/shade conditions and soil that holds moisture like a sponge. From the street it still looks remarkable “lawn” like – although closer inspection will show it is increasingly going over to clover with a strong presence of dandelions and other groundcover weeds mixed in during the early part of the growing season.
I’m still mowing once a week, which seems to be enough to keep the faux-lawn looking neat and tidy enough to not give off the appearance of having given up on the idea of yard maintenance. I’m helped significantly by the looks of next house up the road, the owner of which apparently does not believe in any kind of lawn care than can’t be achieved with a 42-inch riding mower. The unsurprising result is a landscape edged all over with tall weeds and “missed” patches. I’m a little surprised the HOA is letting him get away with that, really, but it provides ideal cover for launching my own experiments in lawn maintenance so I don’t complain.
I grew up in a house with a plain, old yard and it wasn’t until my adventures in west Tennessee suburbia, with our houses packed in elbow to asshole that I started to develop an obsession with a pure, emerald green lawn… ironic, perhaps, because the Bermuda grass faded to dormant brown three months out of every year.
Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve come full circle with what elements of the landscape I choose to care about. I’ve gone from craving a proper lawn to enjoying a yard again. It’s straight bonus points that I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of bees and other pollinators I see going about their business on the property. It’s a small win, but one that both the science and I agree is worth having… now if I can just gin up the time and money to rework two large front planting beds with something the local deer are less apt to eat, we’ll be making actual progress.
I have long suspected that what ultimately drives this blog – what makes for the most interesting content – is largely the angst that annoyance that comes from one or two major sources. The first, of course, is anything at all that relates to traveling to, enduring the day at, or coming back from the office. That’s a shitshow that is near universal and provides an endless well for new posts – or maybe it’s just the same fifteen or twenty posts repeating over time. The other main driver, one that’s more general, comes from any time that I’m required from dealing with the general public. My thoughts about people as a group are well known by now… like the office, though, they are an bottomless source of things to comment on.
Spending four or five days mostly ensconced at home with books and animals significantly decreases the number of things I feel the need to bitch and complain about. Sure, I guess I could ry my hand at writing some happy, uplifting shit, but that doesn’t strike me as anything close to speaking with my authentic voice… and I suspect it would be far less entertaining for anyone who happened to read it. If people really liked good news stories, the cable news channels would be filled with them rather than with the regular mayhem and chaos that they know puts eyes on advertising.
So what’s the point here? I’m not sure I have one beyond wanting to share what, I jotted down today and promptly rejected as topics for today:
Earthquakes. Why the hell do people live in California? It burns down regularly and the damned earth shakes. I don’t care how nice the weather is, that seems like a bad tradeoff.
Women’s World Cup. Team USA is getting hectored for “too much celebrating.” Fuck all the way off with that noise.
4th of July “military parade.” So the left decried the “military trade” in DC on the 4th of July… that turned out to be something like 4 vehicles put on static display near the Lincoln Memorial. Somehow I think the republic will endure.
Jeffrey Epstein. If I were a billionaire, I’m 100% sure I’d find something to do with my time and money that’s way less likely to send me to prison than sex trafficking of minors. Money can buy a lot of things, but even giant honking piles of cash can’t fix stupid.
Sigh. I hate to admit it, but it’s probably best that the holiday is over and it’s time to get back to work and people. I’ll be annoyed as hell, but the writing will be better, so there’s that.
So, Jorah has been part of the family now for a little shy of two months. Best estimates place him at just about eight months old. The shy, quiet little guy I met at the SPCA is now a ball of energy prepared to spring into a dead run at the first hint of an opportunity.
Blogs and Facebook posts are filled with tales of shelter dogs who fit seamlessly into the family – of the ones who seemed to have been there all along with the perfect manners and behavior. Jorah, isn’t one of those. He can be quite sweet when he wants to be. Lord knows he’s photogenic. But the fact remains, my new dog is kind of an asshole.
He enjoys laying on the cat and steamrolling over Maggie out in the yard. He likes to gnaw on any hand that gets close to his mouth. He’ll chew drawer pulls and insists on licking every single surface he can reach. About every third or fourth day he decides peeing in the house is just easier – which is why we are all still more or less living in two rooms with easily cleanable floors.
On good days, he’s a charmer and it’s really good. On bad days, I find myself frustrated that this is the first animal I’ve had who doesn’t just seem to naturally “get it” after a few months of persistence. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by a remarkably easy to get along with series of dogs in the past, but this one is putting me through my paces. It leaves me wondering if it’s just his nature, something about the six months before I got him, something I’ve changed, or if there’s another intangible at work.
We’ll get the job done. I have no doubt that I’m every bit and more stubborn than this little dog… but the envisioned quiet nights with two of them curled up snoozing in the living room feel as far off as they were on day one. And if I’m honest, that makes me just a little bit sad.
It’s Monday, but it’s a short three-day week and there’s at least one telework day between me and the start of the weekend on Wednesday afternoon. Summer and fall are my favorite times of year to be in Uncle’s employ. Unlike the interminable, holiday-free stretch from February to May, the holidays flow with reasonable regularity in 4-6 week intervals. They’re always something to look forward to on the horizon – a minor way-station on the long trip to 2035.
I make a point of pride out of making sure I’ve burnt off all my leave by the end of the year. I generally aim to carry precisely the maximum amount of leave across from year to year… not an hour more or an hour less. Keeping a big honking pile of leave available is a safety blanket of sorts – an insurance policy – against the idea that something catastrophic could happen at any time, but I have a cushion of paid time off owed to me to help mitigate whatever the problem might be.
Life experience has also taught me that I appreciate time off more in small doses than I do en block. With the exception of maybe a week or ten days across Christmas and New Years, I take most of my leave a day or two at a time. A four day weekend seems to hit some sort of neurological sweet spot for me – enough to feel rested, like it’s been something more than a regular weekend, but not so long that the very act of coming back to work feels torturous. Coming back after a long stretch – like the “Christmas break,” has a funny way of leaving me more annoyed and dispirited than I was before I left. For me that’s the real danger of taking too much time in one run.
So, here I am, my projected leave schedule covering the calendar like shot from a scattergun. Most aren’t random strikes, though. I try to set them to maximize preexisting holidays or to compliment the few days of the year I know I like being somewhere other than work. Throw in four or five more days held in reserve for the inevitable mornings I just can’t face eight hours in the cube farm, and it’s my own special, patent pending formula for dragging my carcass through another year while preserving some semblance of sanity.