I’ve never quite understood the “protestor mentality.” You know the ones I’m talking about – everyone from the kids a decade ago who hated Wall Street so much they wanted to physically occupy it or the Canadian Convoy who are determined to stay in Ottawa until the government there agrees to their right to die horribly from a largely preventable illness or the fading rock stars who threaten to take their catalog and go home unless someone gives in to their demands.
Mostly I don’t understand from where these people find the time. I mean I’m not the busiest guy on the planet, but while they’re out marching around waving signs, I’ve got a job to do, meals to make, animals to tend, and the thousand other things that go into keeping a household running. Most of the time, that’s a full day’s work right there… and what hour or two of unallocated personal time I do manage to carve out, I can find more rewarding things to do than standing on a street corner with my bullhorn antagonizing people like some kind of asshole.
Maybe some of these people have valid grievances, but it seems that I’ve always had better results in finding redress by talking directly to the people who can do something about whatever my problem happens to be. I can’t think of anything less apt to convince me of the rightness of your position than seeing you and your friends throwing big adult sized tantrums for the benefit of the howling mob, or news cameras, or your social feeds.
It doesn’t make you look principled, it makes you look like a moron. If you’re bored enough that marching around in the cold sounds like fun, shoot me an email, I’ll be happy to set you about doing some winter yard projects for me. With a little bit of my own time freed up, maybe I’d even find time to more deeply consider, but probably still not care about, whatever happens to be the flavor of popular outrage this week.
Three years ago tonight, I knew I had a very sick dog. I knew we’d run out of room to maneuver. Through surgeries, skin infections, ear infections, bad joints, and most of the other expected bulldog maladies, there was always the likelihood of a bit of improved quality of life on the other side of the visit to the vet’s office.
Three years ago, I knew that wasn’t the case any longer. Standing up under his own power required a herculean effort and the pain of it was written across his face. The one short step down to the porch was entirely beyond his power. I could have filled him with pain meds and hung on grimly for a few more days or maybe even a few more weeks, but nothing seems more cruel than forcing a loyal dog to suffer without hope of it gaining him better times ahead.
Instead, I laid awake a lot of the night and listened to the steady rhythm of his snoring. Most good clocks aren’t as well regulated in their timing. We should all be so fortunate to sleep as soundly as a bulldog.
I won’t relive the rest of the story here. After three years, the inevitable “tomorrow” is still raw. Maybe it always will be.
Maybe that’s as it should be. After all, Winston was a very, very good dog and I miss him.
1. Right wing outrage. Should the president call a reporter a stupid son of a bitch? Probably not… but watching the right wing clutching their pearls over Joe Biden’s calling out Pete Doocy is the operative definition of a tempest in a teapot, particularly considering Don Trumps regular pronouncements from the podium that the media were collectively “enemies of the state.” The same people fainting from fits of the vapors now are the ones who cheered it on 18 months ago. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I don’t pretend their outrage is in any way sincere or worthy of consideration. A president should be above such comments (in public at least). Joe Biden recognized this and personally apologized, which is something his predecessor never had the personal fortitude or desire to do.
2. Sleep. Whatever I’ve been getting between the hours of 10:00 PM and 4:30 AM these last couple of days is probably technically sleep, but it hasn’t been restful. I know this from how many twists the sheets and covers have in them by the time I wake up. I’m not known for having the sunniest of dispositions on my better days, so I’ll leave you to imagine the full foulness of my mood just now.
3. The weather. For the last four or five days, the possibility of a “winter weather event” has been tracked by the local professional (and amateur) forecasters. I’ve seen regional predictions of everything from just some wind to 30 inches of snow within an hour’s drive of where I sit writing this. Some have opted to make no prediction at all, continuing to report that they’re monitoring possible adverse weather. Hey, look, the atmosphere is the very definition of a dynamic system. It’s complicated… but this deep into the 21st century it feels like we should have a pretty good grasp on what the prevailing conditions will be a scant 24-36 hours into the future.
Scan the big news sites and it won’t take long to find an article where someone is decrying cryptocurrency as some kind of scam that swindled poor unsuspecting victims out of their life savings and now the bank will inevitably foreclose on the farm while Ma and Pa are tossed out to the ditch.
It makes an attention grabbing headline, but doesn’t garner any sympathy from me. It’s safe to say that most people don’t know the basics of how the Federal Reserve “creates money.” I’d wager that far fewer know with any kind of precision how an asset like Bitcoin really works, but here we are with scads of people wondering how they suddenly lost so much value, even when they didn’t know how it was generated in the first place.
You can almost hear the outcry now, begging for the government to place increasingly restrictive regulations on cryptocurrency and save the ill- and under-informed from themselves. Letting people live or die with their own decisions doesn’t play well in front of the cameras, I suppose.
In the interest of full disclosure, I hold a very small position in crypto. Mostly it’s a hedge against fear of missing out rather than any expectation of it ever shooting the moon. With much of it picked up back in 2017, I guess you can say I’m long on this brave new frontier of finance. I think some interesting things will come of it, even if no one seems quite sure what any of those will be yet.
Despite making reasonable efforts, one thing I’ve found impossible to avoid as an army of one is generating a fair amount of food waste.
Every Saturday morning, the weeks leftovers, bread that’s started to mold, crackers gone stale, spring mix that’s slimed, and whatever other food is around that I’m just not going to eat, gets hauled out and dumped over the fence. The local critters seem to appreciate it, but it’s absolutely money out the window. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t also some low-level of guilt for what I nonchalantly throw out on a weekly basis, particularly given the increased cost of food and the sometime scarcity of staple products in our plague environment.
I’ve done my best to reduce recipe sizes but when I’m just feeding me there’s always some left. The easy answer would be to dramatically reduce the types of things I buy – just bread instead of bread and buns and English muffins. That’s fine if someone wants to be so self-sacrificing, but I like each of those things in a different preparation – sourdough bread for dipping in my over medium eggs and bacon butties, hamburger buns for, well, hamburgers, roast beef, and chicken sandwiches, and English muffins for breakfast sandies in all their various forms.
That just considers the various bread products that make regular appearances here at Fortress Jeff. Meats, produce, and most other grocery categories are equally represented. Some people are fanatical at cutting anything resembling waste. As much as I wish I was one of them, there are just limits to what I’m willing to eliminate because money is only one measure of value.
Having options is the measure that appeals most to me. The serious granola and sandals types won’t like it, but at least the local wildlife is appreciative.
Among the many things I’m not, is a foreign policy expert. I have an awareness of issues and a personal opinion, of course, but lack any significant academic knowledge beyond what I’ve picked up from books and the mass media. Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War makes me far more comfortable looking at, and trying to understand events in and around the old Soviet Union, but honestly, I’m far more comfortable talking about the Crimean War than I am any contemporary issues surrounding the Ukraine situation.
In retrospect, maybe we should all have assumed Ukraine would be the flashpoint it seems to have become. In our collective defense, we’ve spent a lot of that time focusing on Korean dictators, the failures of the Trump presidency, its domestic implications, and fighting among ourselves.
Here we are, threatening sanctions, arming the Ukrainian military, and staring down our old adversary while NATO rushes nominal reinforcements towards Eastern Europe. Sixty years ago, my old man wore our nation’s cloth in Bavaria serving the same function – a forward presence in Europe to deter Russian aggression. For fifty years, the great powers staring at each other across the plains of Europe managed to keep the peace, because the consequences of not keeping that peace were considered catastrophic by both sides.
There’s nothing new under the sun… though as we begin our evacuation of family members and non-essential personnel from Ukraine, I’m left to wonder if the old playbooks will hold up in this brave new world of ours.
I’m making a list and checking it twice, because one of my fun little “other duties as assigned” is filling in as the Keeper of COVID Numbers whenever one of my distinguished colleagues is out of the office. Today was one such day.
Without giving away state secrets or anything confidential, let me just say that the number’s we’re putting up aren’t good. They’re not good on a level much higher than previous iterations of my sitting here plugging away on the spreadsheet thinking “Damn, that’s a lot of people.”
I’ve never really been a fan of people, but increasingly it’s hard to think of our species collectively as anything more than unmitigated plague carriers.
Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear a mask. Stay the hell away from people.
Even if none of those things are perfectly effective, combined they go a long way towards keeping people off my list… because quite frankly trying to track this many lines on a spreadsheet is just an enormous, time-consuming pain in the ass.
1. Schedule. I’m deep in the weeds of designing a schedule for a three-day event where, at best, there’s one day of real content. The inevitable result will be a proposal that nobody likes – but that everyone will eventually go along with because no one else wants to come up with a better alternative. It’s just another week in the belly of the bureaucracy as an event planner, I suppose. Thank God there’s no real-world events taking place globally that would be a better place to allocate limited time and effort.
2. Joe Biden. I get it, he’s not Don Trump. At some point, though, that has to stop being enough reason to give the guy a pass. I never had particularly high expectations for a Biden Administration, but setting aside our policy disagreements on the proper role and function of the federal government, the first year has been less successful than even I expected. From the bungled evacuation of Afghanistan to rampaging inflation to failure to ramp up testing for COVID, most of what’s come out of the White House in the last 365 days has felt botched in many greater or lesser ways. Maybe it’s just me, but I expected more polish and poise from an administration who are largely old hands inside the beltway.
3. Google. About a decade ago, I set up a “Gmail for Your Domain” account to support jeffreytharp.com. It gave me up to 50 “branded” email address overlayed on the gmail.com platform and some other nice integration features. At the basic tier, that was a “free” service provided by Google (presumably for giving them the right to data mine your various inboxes). For a long time, it’s been a totally painless experience. They’ve just announced the end of this as a free service and now I have to decide if $6 a month is enough of an annoyance and pain point to motivate me to find an alternative and migrate to it between now and May 1st. Otherwise it’s a matter of abandoning tens of thousands of emails and other records in place and starting fresh with a new provider. Stupid Sophie’s choice.
I’ll be the first to admit that my Instagram feed is not generally what most people would consider “wholesome.” It’s thick with porn stars, egirls, and instathots. Thankfully I don’t subscribe to that particularly American brand of puritanism that shrieks and clutches its pearls at even the mention of the human body.
Occasionally, though, some other things break through the Insta-clutter. A couple of nights ago I was scrolling through my feed and I landed on a photo of row after row of books. It was a real thing of beauty – formal, but comfortable; well loved, but equally well maintained.
“I want something like that when I build a house,” I mumbled to myself before filing it away for reference should the occasion ever present itself to build my own book room from the foundation up.
Upon closer inspection, of course I want something like that. The picture that so fascinated me was of the royal library in the Palace of Versailles.
It’s good to be ambitious. Goals beyond food, shelter, and procreation are what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. I fear, however, in this case I may have set my sights just a bit too high.
My master bathroom contractor called right before Christmas to let me know they had filed all the paperwork with the county to apply for the necessary permits. I’m glad to see some forward motion on this project. I’ve lived with it for seven years so I’m not really impatient, but now that I’ve started spending real money, I’d just like to get it over with.
While I had some unallocated free time, before succumbing to whatever crud laid me temporarily low, I decided to start clearing out the linen closet and master closet attached to the master bath. The linen closet is going away completely and my closet is losing a foot to give me enough width in the shower to never worry about banging a shoulder or elbow. It’s a lot of shower, but it feels fitting to replace the enormous bathtub that’s occupied the room, unused, all this time.
It felt like a real inconvenience at the time, but I’m beginning to see the value of moving every couple of years. It forced me to clear out the proverbial dead wood periodically instead of paying to haul it across the country. Having no such forcing function over the last seven years, things have… accumulated. This place is twice the size of the old Memphis house and even so, storage is beginning to feel constrained. It could be time for a general purge… or hiring another contractor to give me some climate-controlled storage in the basement.
Last week, the contractor let me know that some of his team tested positive and others were exposed to the Great Plague. The translation of that, I assume, is that all previous schedules are in the wind. I expected this project would be underway in January. Now, perhaps, it’s a dream of spring… though delaying the time when I’ll have complete strangers trapsing through the house on a regular basis doesn’t bother me at all just now.
In any case, mucking everything out of my closet is now feeling very premature.