What I learned this week…

I can cover some basic home maintenance tasks with a degree of competence. Others – like schlepping up the ladder to clean the gutters – I’m more than happy to pawn off on the professionals. The net result is usually something done faster and with less chance of breaking other things in the process than I would be able to manage myself.

Other times, though, instinct tells me I can do a thing – often because I’ve done that thing previously. Sunday, instinct told me that it might just be better to buy a old fashioned standard toilet at Lowe’s and replace the whole 20-year old contraption instead of fiddling with repairs. Especially because the repairs were going to take proprietary parts and be a pain in the ass to complete myself. A straight up replacement would have been almost plug and play and taken no more than 45 minutes.

I ignored my instincts last weekend, ended up calling in a professional for help, and still finished off by buying and installing a brand new toilet. At least this one has reasonably accessible bits and pieces that I can (probably) deal with when the inevitable time comes.

What I learned this week – or what I re-learned for the 247th time – is that when it comes to home repairs, I should always check my first instinct and then go directly where it points. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred that’s where I’m going to end up anyway.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. President Trump. Say what you want about Europe and the NATO alliance, but they represent most of our oldest and strongest allies. Maintaining strong working relationships there is a key element of American national security. If ever there was a moment for the president to reign in his normal impulse to ratchet up the drama, it would have been this week’s London summit. Pitching a hissy fit in the face of mean words isn’t a good look internationally.

2. Impeachment. The House of Representatives seems to have the votes to move forward with articles of impeachment against the president. The Speaker is a good enough politician not to bring the vote if she didn’t have the numbers. Soon enough the whole thing will be thrown over to the Senate for trial… where I can only assume the Majority Leader will manage the case every bit as politically as the Speaker has done laying the charges. Prediction: The president remains in office while Republicans and Democrats retrench and emerge more divided than ever.

3. Lyft assault accusations. About a million years ago when I was growing up, we were all consistently warned about the dangers of getting into cars with strangers. Now, here in the oh so advanced 21st century we’re suddenly surprised when bad things happen when you get into cars with strangers. It’s the kind of thing we use to call having some goddamned common sense.

I’m like the Queen…

As I’ve said countless times before, I’m not a decision maker.

I can present information. I can counsel. I can advise. In more dire moments I can even warn.

What I am not empowered by policy, regulation, or law to do, however, is make any actual decisions.

After almost 18 years in harness, I feel strongly the right and a duty to express my views on matters of interest. I’ve reached the period of my working life where there’s not much particularly new under the sun. I may not have seen it all before, but laying eyes on a truly unique situation is becoming an increasingly rare event.

Someday, perhaps, there will be those on Olympus who look down upon my pleas and decide that fiddling about for four months before paying any attention may not be the best idea. It turns out, as usual, that today isn’t that day.

Anyway, it turns out I’m almost exactly like the Queen. I can tell the great and the good that they’re about to do something dumb, but there’s not a thing in this great wide world I can really do to stop it happening.

Unmoved by the email…

It’s “Giving Tuesday.” What I’d usually be doing right now is sitting down and making donations to the four or five organizations I wanted to throw my support behind this year – Usually it’s some combination of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, the SPCA in Maryland and Delaware, the Cecil County Animal Services office, and BARCS in Baltimore.

What I am doing right now instead of that is sitting here looking at 45 emails asking for money from every organization I’ve ever donated to and several that I haven’t. A number of the emails are from the same couple of groups.

Look, I was planning to give to some of these guys today anyway, but right now I’m throughly agitated by the amount of pointless spam they’ve launched at me. Some might say that’s a petty reason for withholding donations. That’s fine. Call me petty. I don’t need to see an email from some of them every 60-75 minutes to know they’re doing good work.

So instead of this media blitz opening my wallet, all they’ve managed to do is make sure mine stays shut today. Maybe I’ll swing back to them in a few days. Maybe I won’t. That’s going to depend entirely on how many more emails they dump into my box over the next week or so. The couple who spam me least are fairly likely to win the day.

For the love of all things good and right please help these folks with better marketing ideas than “hey, let’s send out a shit ton of email?”

Good intentions, bad decisions…

There are a handful of things that I can do at the office that I physically can’t do from home. They have more to do with obnoxious and largely outdated security procedures than they do with a lack of personal ability, though.

What I think we proved today was that with the exception of those handful of things that I’m prohibited from doing at home by law, policy, or regulation, everything else can run more or less seamlessly using our electronic mailboxes, a series of various interconnected world-wide web sites, and a portable cellular telephone. It’s far from perfect and not likely something that you’d want to do for more than a day or two at a time, but as a stopgap, it works well enough – or at least better than the alternative which would have been 100% of the work not getting done. If nothing else, it gives you an option to “keep the lights on” under circumstances where they otherwise would go dark.

Now, do I think this will be the bright shining moment where the bosses realize having people willing and able to work from home is more than having a bunch of personnel sitting around with their thumb up their asses? No. No I do not. Maybe they should, but I can’t imagine a scenario where that’s actually going to happen.

What’s far more likely is they’ll race hard in the other direction – specifying new minimum staffing levels, limiting the number of people who can be on leave at any given time, and focusing on the 5% that can’t be done instead of the 95% that can. I’d like to think I’m wrong about this, but history tells me I’m probably not. My entire career has been nothing if not a series of opportunities to observe moments where good intentions gave helpful cover to bad decisions. Getting the powers that be to thinking about productive work happening outside the walls of their adjacent cubicles feels like an awfully long way to stretch given the precedents involved.

If that’s not what happens here, you’ll find me a few months from now both stunned and amazed… and it would be one of those rare occasions where I wouldn’t mind being caught off guard in the least.

What I learned this week…

It turns out that squirrels aren’t the only scavengers in the yard who will devour every scrap of bird seed they can find. A few nights ago, I watched Jorah sidle up to one of the pylons holding a feeder and then nudge it repeatedly until some seed fell out so he can eat it. I’ve apparently now got to devise an anti-dog device that might also help with squirrels. I knew these hooligans who live with me would race to eat dropped seed, but I had no idea one of them would figure out a way to turn the whole back yard into an on-demand treat dispenser.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. My diminished abilities. When I was a kid, I can remember devouring whole plates of food at Sunday dinner. In high school we’d show up for lunch and demolish entire pizza buffets. Now, after a semi-full plate and a slice of pie, I feel like I’ve just tried to ingest the entire pantry. It turns out I’m not the glutton I once was. I just can’t eat like I use to… and lord, don’t even get me started on how my metabolism is determined not to even bother trying to burn off what I do eat. It’s a hell of a thing to contend with on the holiday celebrating mass consumption and gluttony.

2. Leftovers. The only real challenge of being the guest at Thanksgiving is that even when they send you home with leftovers, you don’t have an endless supply of turkey sandwiches or the makings of a solid turkey-broth based soup. Now, I’m not in any way saying I want to be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner next year… but there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be roasting a turkey breast this weekend for the express purpose of having sandwiches for days.

3. A million ways to die in America. One a single screen of The Washington Post, I can see three articles covering sensational ways that people died or been seriously injured over the last few days. You can take you pick… feral hog attack, tape worms laced hotpot, and bacteria laced dog licks. I’m sure if you’re the person lying in bed dying from any one of those things, it’s a very serious matter. With the sheer volume of people in the United States who don’t die of those things, though, I have to think that they’re pretty statistically aberrant ways to get killed. They’re interesting enough stories if you’re looking for filler, but mainline ink on the front page of a news site feels like something of a stretch.