Bathroom Report: Day 68

There is nothing significant to report. The project remains at a pause pending a few final bits and bobs. The mirrors, a towel rack, and the toilet paper holder remain uninstalled. The connection for the handheld shower head has an odd leak/surge when the diverter is closed. Last, but certainly not least, the 4’x4′ piece of glass that I’ll need in order to keep the rest of the room dry while the shower is running remains “ordered.”

We’re over the projected timeline by a factor of 2.25 now. At least the project managed to stay on budget.

As a direct result of this little bathroom project of mine, I’ve really begun to question my long held dream of having the final homestead built from the ground up. The level of aggravation this one room has caused makes me question whether I could get through a new house build without having a stroke and heart attack simultaneously.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Busses. I spent more of the week than I want to admit thinking about busses. One of the “other duties as assigned” that landed on my desk years ago for reasons that still defy logic, is facilitating a couple of charter busses to haul people from the office down to DC for an annual trade show every fall. It’s a boondoggle that was happily suspended due to the Great Plague for the last two years. It’s back with a vengeance for 2022, though, so now I’m in a great paper chase to figure out what hoops must be cleared to reserve, pay for, and fill up a couple of busses for people who are mostly interested in walking the exhibit floor and filling their bags up with cheap giveaway swag. 

2. Duplicate names. I do my best when it comes to naming posts not to repeat myself. After 3,715 posts, though, some dupes slip through. It makes me absolutely buggy when I catch the site address reading something like jeffreytharp.com/duplicate-name-2. If I’d have had any idea that I’d be almost 4,000 posts deep all these years later, I’d have probably kept better track of titles as I went along, but it seems that ship has probably sailed. I’m certainly not going to go back and try to track it all at this late date. Just know, when you see a duplicate name it’s just a small thing that makes me want to burn down the whole internet. 

3. Reality avoidance. So, we have stubbornly high inflation, two quarter decline in gross domestic product, and a midterm election barely three months away. The president has released a statement saying, in part “we are on the right path.” It’s hard to imagine a more tone-deaf thing to say minutes after the Bureau of Economic Analysis releases their quarterly report indicating that we’re now in an economic environment that’s commonly called recessionary. In 1988, George H.W. Bush got throttled at the polls because he was out of touch with the domestic economy. In 1980, Jimmy Carter was turned out of office largely on the back of high inflation and negligible economic growth. I get that most people like to forget history, but if I’m a Democrat running in a competitive race in 2022, I’m scared to death that my party’s leaders are determined to avoid reality.

Unfavorable odds…

Every time one of the big multi-state lottery jackpots gets up towards record territory, there’s a flurry of reports decrying the whole concept of state sanctioned gambling. I can tick most of the main arguments off by heart: They’re a tax on the poor; They’re a tax on those who don’t understand math; They divert funds that people should use for long term investment; They destroy the lives of the people who win. The list goes on and on and on and on… but you get the gist. 

Like most other activities in life, there’s no end to people who want to tell you why you shouldn’t do something and why you’re an idiot if you do. I tend to fall more in line with the “let people enjoy the things they enjoy” school of thought. Deciding to buy a $2 Mega Millions ticket, even if it’s your last $2, literally doesn’t hurt anyone else. You buying a ticket doesn’t impact me in any way. In this country we’re all free to bankrupt ourselves in any way we’d like. 

With no hand wringing at all, I’m happy to throw a few dollars every week at various games sponsored by the Maryland lottery. I’m putting plenty back to care for myself in old age, it’s not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, or a roof from over anyone’s head, so why the hell shouldn’t I take a flyer on fabulous wealth? It’s a happy dream that costs next to nothing.

Now if anyone needs me between now and Friday night, I’ll be over at Country Life getting a read on what English country homes are heading to market in the near future. A billion dollars probably won’t buy me a peerage, but it’s more than enough to live like it did.

Right here, right now…

Due to there being a lot of other stuff in the queue, I’m a little late off the blocks on this one. Still, I just want to take at least one post and say without reservation that the James Webb Space Telescope is absolutely amazing. I haven’t even asked how much we spent on it, but regardless of how many billions of dollars it cost, Webb would have been a bargain at twice the price.

Webb has enabled us to peer back through the evolution of the universe, now seeing so deeply into the past to find a point only 300 million years after the beginning. In a 14-billion-year-old universe, it’s a fraction that’s incredibly hard to imagine – almost impossible to fathom set against a human lifetime that may range to 80 years if one happens to be both lucky and healthy.

We’re just now at the very beginning of Webb’s discoveries. It’s this I think of any time someone declares we’re living in “the worst timeline.” The oldest evidence for man’s creation of primitive stone tools is about 2.6 million years old. Human’s first constructive use of fire happened, maybe, 2.3 million years ago. We didn’t get around to inventing shoes until 45,000 years ago. It took 20,000 years after that to domesticate the dog. Fixed settlements, towns, arrived about 11,000 years ago. Wine came 7,500 years after that – and then we were off to the races with the pace of technical and scientific invention cracking along ever faster. 

It took 6,400 years to go from the invention of the wheel to the first modern car. It took 66 years to go from the first flight at Kitty Hawk to landing men safely on the Moon. The pace of discovery and invention isn’t linear. It only seems gradual right up until the moment when it doesn’t. 

Webb has opened up a new era for exploration and discovery. It’s impossible to know what still lays unseen over the horizon, but I’m so very glad to be here for it… rather than waiting for the guy living in the next cave over to figure out how to cook a mammoth steak without burning his face off. There’s really nowhere I’d rather be than right here, right now.

Getting clean…

Before I get into this, I want the record to show that I keep a reasonably clean and tidy home. Despite the popular perception that men can’t or won’t do the domestic work to keep a house in order – whether it’s cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry – I have, since the year of our lord two thousand, done all of those things myself. Maybe I misunderstood the assignment in interpreting what was men’s work versus women’s work. I’ve just lumped them all in the same category as cutting the grass and getting the oil changed – otherwise known as things that need to be done if you’re going to be a functioning adult.

As time has rolled on, I’ll admit I’ve farmed some of those things out. I use to change my own oil. I use to muddle my own way through appliance repairs. None of that was a point of personal pride so much as it was a function of not wanting to spend money beyond what was absolutely necessary to get the job done. Over time, promotions and time in grade accrued. Deep into middle age now, I’ve reached the inevitable conclusion that time rather than money is my most limited resource – too limited to spend hours of a Saturday and Sunday doing things I don’t particularly enjoy simply because they must be done.

With that in mind, I’ve been making a conscious effort to offload projects to professionals. The bathroom renovation has helped me build a roster of plumbers, electricians, and painters to go along with the guys who clean the gutters, handle appliance repair, and do the heavy lifting on the spring landscaping. Could I do most of those things myself? Sure. It’s just not how I want to spend an increasingly limited amount of time.

After a decade or more of threatening it, I’ve finally pulled the trigger on hiring someone to come in a couple of times a month to keep up with the deep cleaning. Running the vacuum or dusting is easy enough to manage, but there are things I loathe – like cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing floors, and wiping down baseboards. The inevitable result is those things got deferred, often repeatedly. When they did eventually get done, it was always harder and took longer than it would have otherwise. So, I’m going to see about letting someone else keep up with it for a while and decide if having perfect strangers loose in the house is the alternative I can live with or if that proves to be a bridge too far.

Wednesday afternoon, I’ll decamp temporarily from my normal telework position in the sunroom to a small desk I keep back in the tortoise room and let the cleaners have at it. After that we’ll sort out details on how often and for how long I need to plan on them being here going forward. It’s probably not the best financial decision I’ve ever made, but there’s really no telling how having a truly clean house a few times a month will improve my overall mood. This one might not stick, but I’ve absolutely reached the point where I’m more than willing to give it a try.

The Bathroom Report: Day 61

Monday was the only working day on the project this week. The electricians were here making final hook ups in the morning and the plumbers ate up the afternoon installing all the fixtures. For all practical purposes, I have a working bathroom… That I still can’t quite use yet.

The punch list I’m tracking includes hanging the mirrors, caulking the vanity top, around the top of the shower tile, and all the fixtures, installing a towel bar and toilet paper holder, and addressing an odd leak from the handheld shower that only seems to happen momentarily when the flow is diverted back to the main showerhead. There’s also the backlogged glass panel that needs to be installed before I can properly use the shower without water logging the rest of the room. None of that includes the more mundane things that need doing – like picking a trash can and replacing the builder grade shower head.

I have, at least, moved back into my own bedroom. Sleeping in your own bed after being displaced for two months is a real pleasure. With the painting down and the shelving back, I’ve even started using my master closet instead of having thing split between three other closets and one large pile in the middle of the room where George the tortoise lives. The missing seven square feet is surprisingly noticeable, but I don’t regret giving it up to get more space for the shower. I still want to rework some of that space, maybe add some stacked shelving in addition to the current long racks. There’s enough left-over parts and pieces from what needed to be removed that I can probably fashion something to suit with just one or two trips to Lowe’s. Failing that, a drive down to Ikea will get me there for a few dollars more.

With paint on the walls and all the fixtures in, I still don’t love the colors I picked out for the vanity and top. I have, however, decided they’re good enough to not be able to justify tearing things out immediately. Soon enough, the guest bath is on the list for its own upgrade, so they’ll eventually find a home across the hall when I bring in something else.

The list to drag this project, limping, across the finish line is relatively short, but since we’ve now exceeded the original project timeline by more than 100%, I’m increasingly eager to have the last bits finished off. After it being an almost completely useless room for the last seven years, I’m impatient for it to start being something to use instead of just for looking at as an ongoing curiosity. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The new and improved Instagram. I hated it when it launched. After a few weeks of living with it, I still hate it. Insta went from my most visited social to the least. It was a nice little app to see fun and interesting pictures from friends and people I followed. Now it’s turned into a bad imitation of TikTok that endlessly shows me clips from people/organizations I don’t know or care about and makes what I did find intresting harder to reach. I’m sure there was a very good business case for doing whatever they did, but it makes Instagram just about useless to me.

2. Heat in the summer. The professional media in Baltimore has been falling all over themselves to report on “weather alert days” this week because it’s hot. It also happens to be the back half of July. Here in the Mid-Atlantic that means it’s the height of summer. Put another way, it’s precisely the time of year when one might expect it to be hot and humid in this part of the world. I’m fully onboard with the climate changing – but seeing temperatures in the mid-90s and normal temperatures this time of year are regularly in the low-90s doesn’t feel like a case of breaking news. Now if I wake up tomorrow and it’s 140 degrees in the shade, you’ve got my interest. Otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and treat this as summer doing summer stuff.

3. Accessories. One of the things I hadn’t prepared myself for was the need to outfit this new bathroom of mine with accessories – you know, the various mats, hooks, towels, and so on that might give the whole thing a more finished look. So far all I’ve managed to do is order up a hamper to replace the standard white Rubbermaid version I’ve been toting around since 1998. As for the rest, I have this terrible feeling that at some point it might require me to go out and shop in actual stores to get my eyes and hands on actual fit and finish rather than relying on how things look on the screen. It already feels like a waste of whatever perfectly good Saturday afternoon gets eaten up with it.

Maryland Republicans…

Yesterday, Marylanders went to the polls to vote in the state’s primary election. In a fit of absurdity, Maryland’s Republicans have voted to set up an election denying, insurrection supporting, Trumpist as their standard bearer for 2022.

In one of the most liberal states in the Union, this is who Maryland republicans have decided is their best hope to keep the governor’s mansion. Maybe it’s the kind of play that will work in Tennessee or one of the Dakotas, but it doesn’t carry water in Maryland. I can only assume Maryland Republicans have well and truly lost their collective minds. 

Running to the hard right is not how Republicans get elected to state-level office in Maryland. As much as I’ve never been in love with Larry Hogan, he was precisely the kind of moderate conservative that can get elected in this blue state. If nothing else, having a solid moderate governor helped mitigate the more wildly liberal impulses of a General Assembly that’s perennially controlled by Democrats. With a legislative branch that’s never met a tax, toll, or fee it didn’t like, that wasn’t nothing.

What Maryland Republicans have said with their vote is they’re more concerned with the Trumpian nightmare vision of Party Purity than in actually holding on to the governor’s office. As a result, come November, they’ll get a governor that will cheerfully go along with and lead the charge for whatever flurry of new taxes, regulations, and laws the Democratic legislature dreams up.

Maryland Republicans have made their wishes known… and I’m looking forward to November, when I’ll have the chance to vote against every single election denying, insurrection loving, Constitution loathing, anti-republican (small “r”) candidate they’ve saddled themselves with. Believe me when I say I’ll cast every one of those votes with a smile in my heart because the Constitution and this republic are not negotiable. 

The last week wasn’t great…

So, the last week wasn’t great times. Personally and professionally there were a lot of moving parts that never quite meshed among themselves or with each other.

Monday and Tuesday I worked from home and all was well, or at least it was well until the storms rolled through, trees fell over, and grid power crapped out and took my access to the internet along with it. No internet means no working from home. Which was a problem because Wednesday was a day where the general contractor was making a big push to get a lot of work done and I needed to be home. Chalk it up to an unplanned day off while the bathroom contractors did their work using generator power. At least someone was getting some work done.

By Thursday morning power and internet were back, but I couldn’t log in to my work computer. After six hours of sitting around waiting for the help desk to get back to me, I was duly informed of the reason why I couldn’t sign in. It seems I was delinquent at completing mandatory annual cyber security training and had been unceremoniously expelled from the network until I took the class, sent in my certificate, and genuflected six times in the direction of the IT office.

Under normal circumstances none of those things would be more than an inconvenience, but there’s a catch. Because of course there’s a catch. Because of reasons, this training can’t be completed from a personal computer. I had to be on the official network, which means I had to schlep in to the office and use someone else’s machine. That’s great, of course, except last week was a steady parade of general contractors and painters trying to wrap up my bathroom remodel. They had full days scheduled on Friday and Monday. With so many more or less unknown elements coming and going at different hours, leaving the house for any length of time just wasn’t something I was willing to do.

The net result between weather and home improvement was burning off three unplanned days of vacation time last week. Adding another 24 hours to the 64 hours of leave I’ve already burned this year to mostly hang out at the house while other people do work. It doesn’t feel like a great way to take the lion’s share of your yearly vacation days.

Yes, I still have a mountain of combined annual and sick leave on the books. If I don’t take any more vacation time, other than what’s already have scheduled, I’ll still carry over the maximum amount allowed, but also means facing the next five months with no impromptu days off. That feels… stifling. I have grave doubts about whether I’ll be able to pull it off no matter how my good intentions.

Texas, unfuck thyself…

The number of people defending the Alamo is usually pegged at right around 200. At the height of the Pacific war, a fully manned Marine infantry company consisted of 7 officers and 228 enlisted personnel for a total of 235. 

During the school shooting in Uvalde, 376 law enforcement officers were on scene. 

That’s almost 2x the number of men who held the Alamo against the Mexican army. It’s 1.6x the number of troops who would have stormed ashore in an infantry company landing on Iwo Jima.

Those 376 armed and trained law enforcement officers were held at bay by one guy with limited ammunition and no way out.

I’m not necessarily calling into question the manhood or virility of each and every one of those officers, but men have certainly been charged, tried, and shot for cowardice in the face of the enemy for a lot less. 

The biggest question, really, is if and how so many elements of Texas law enforcement will unfuck themselves – and what lessons need to be learned by agencies large and small across the country.