Shutdown prep…

Years ago, the federal government was touted as stable employment, promising a career that wouldn’t make you rich, but ensured that you wouldn’t die poor. It was a guarantee of a solidly middle class lifestyle during your working years and a comfortable retirement when the time came. The trade off, for such stability was forgoing the big salaries that could sometimes be had for similar work in the private sector. Those salaries, of course, came with risk that the contract that paid so well could disappear overnight.

Stable is a relative term, of course. Over the last fifteen years I’ve worked through hiring freezes, furloughs, and more government shut downs than I can really remember. That’s not the hallmark of a particularly stable employer. Then again, when I look at the elected officials who the people, in their questionable wisdom, have sent to Washington to represent them, “stable” isn’t a world I’d choose to use for many of them – both the politicians and the electorate.

So here I am, with the next government shut down hovering in the wings, once again preparing to defer or stop payments and dramatically reduce the scope and scale of operations at Fortress Jeff.

I’ve got enough years on me now to ride out a run of the mill government shutdown if I must. Still, planning for a few weeks or months without pay does make you question going with the “stable” choice all those years ago. If you’re going to be planning how to cut spending down to the bone every couple of years anyway, maybe some of those contract jobs would have been better in the end.

Our elected representatives are increasingly incapable of acting like grown adults, but then again, the same is true of the people who elect them. The curse of democracy is we continue to get exactly the kind of politicians, government, and society that we deserve.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bureaucracy. Wednesday morning I received an email from the Office of Personnel Management. The sole purpose of that email was asking me to forward the email, a request to take a survey, to my supervisor. Yes, before anyone asks, it was a legitimate email versus some kind of elaborate and badly executed fishing expedition. Every time I start to think that maybe we have reached peak bureaucracy, Uncle goes ahead and sets the bar just a little bit higher.

2. Meetings that wouldn’t even justify being an email. The bosses called a global “all hands” meeting for our corner of the great green machine this week. There were 80 invitees in person or online. Squarely in the middle of when I’d generally be breaking for lunch. Surely, you’d think, this would be for the transmission of important information or critical organizational changes. No. It was 30 seconds of regurgitated talking points and 14 minutes of birthday cake for one of the top line managers. He’s a good enough guy and all, but if you’re ever wondering why morale has moved on from being in the shitter to being in the septic tank, I’ll present exactly this sort of asshattery as evidence.

3. Pants. I had to stop what I was doing in the middle of the day today and put on pants. Between the rain and the plummeting ambient air temperature, it was just plain uncomfortable. I’m not mentally ready to concede that the long summer is over. I’ve obviously spent too much time growing accustomed to conducting the business of the day in tee shirts and shorts. Making the transition back to actual pants feels… onerous. 

Another winter of discontent…

Remembering the fiasco of getting anything shipped between Thanksgiving and Washington’s Birthday last year, I’ve been in a bit of a race to pick up some books. It’s not that I’m in any danger of running out of things to read, but since I have a habit of picking up a series and then racing through it to the end, there are a few titles it’s going to be better to have on hand for when delivery services go absolutely sideways again this year.

Watching the supply chain struggle to not even keep up over the last year, it really feels inevitable that loading it down with the standard end of the year holiday surge will see the whole delicate machine grind to a near halt, if only temporarily. Products will still be flowing, of course, but there’s no guarantee that was moving through the network will be what you ordered. I fully expect basic delivery of goods to be almost unusable for a good part of the late fall and winter. Sure, I suppose your stuff will arrive eventually, but “timely service” isn’t going to be something to expect.

By this time next month, I’m planning to drastically curtail my use of online shopping and delivery. The sheer aggravation of waiting for weeks or months on things that should arrive in a day or two just isn’t worth it. I’ll draw down the stocks I’ve put up for the winter, or shop regional retail if it’s absolutely unavoidable. Now if I could just find the last book or two I’m looking for (at something less than fully-loaded collector prices), I feel like I could be all set to ride out another winter of discontent.

I’m not under any delusion that the supply chain will be completely untangled in 2022, but by the time the last Christmas card arrives in February or March, maybe last mile delivery will at least be usable for household basics again. I’m certainly preparing myself to see as much or more disruption than we did in in the closing weeks of 2000 and the first months of 2021. It’s one of those cases where I really hope I’ll be proven wrong and over reactionary… but I don’t think I am or will be.

Get a helmet…

This morning I stumbled across a thread on Twitter wherein the poster bemoans their seeming inability to work, pay bills on time, eat three times a day, perform basic personal hygiene, clean their place, and take care of the lawn. “How does anyone get it all done,” they rage into the electronic void.

By the time I saw it, the post had garnered 26,000 likes and hundreds of replies of “Same girl” or “Uh, this is the world capitalism gave us.” Other replies were some variation of “I just live in filth,” “Nobody does that,” “They’re rich and hire help,” or “They have a significant other who does it.”

I’m sorry, but that whole line of logic sounds like raging bullshit to me. Not all of those things are the top priority on every day – sometimes the house is a little dusty or I pull a meal out of the freezer instead of making a full dinner. But taken on average doing all the things is pretty much just being a responsible adult.

I’m sure someone will come screaming into the comments that my cis het white male conforming neuro-normative privilege is showing, but all I really read in that thread was a laundry list of excuses. There’s no staff here at Fortress Jeff. There’s no domestic help or significant other picking up the slack for whatever basic household task I don’t handle. Sure, I farm out some of the more specialized tasks (like fixing the well and cleaning the gutters), but I’m a one man show keeping up on the day-to-day essentials.

If anything, I suppose it’s my non-religious Protestant work ethic is showing – or maybe I just don’t expect to have others manage all my basic life functions for me. Then again, it could be a matter of trying not to take so many cues about how your life should look from Instagram and spend that time taking a damned shower or folding some laundry.

Life’s tough, kids. Get a helmet.

Downstream consequences…

I’m not a well driller, but I know just enough theory to realize that last week’s tinkering around inside the well casing was going to disturb the water column and kick up all manner of detritus. The professionals who raised the pump height and installed the new filter system warned me that it would take at least a day for that to clear up. Likewise, even after flushing the system, it would take a bit of time for any sediment (and ants) already in the system to work their way out. I tried not to dwell on some parts of that discussion too much.

For obvious reasons, I don’t use water like the “average” household, so I mentally allowed a few more days than their estimate. Sure enough, on the third day water from the tap was running crystal clear and free of bits and pieces.  it’s a huge step in the right direction.

Whatever’s left of the colony after my application of large amounts of boiling water still needs to be addressed. For now, though, the new and improved shields are holding and I’ve bought a bit of time to find the right solution versus the quick one. The well guy’s advice to “just soak the whole thing in ant killer” doesn’t necessarily feel like the right course of action here. I mean I’m sure it would kill the ants, but it feels like he may not have been giving enough thought to the downstream consequences.

It’s not most weeks…

Most weeks, by the time Friday rolls around, I’ve simply had it. I try to eat a big enough lunch that dinner can be a piece of fruit, some cheese, and, if I’ve remember to pick one up, a soft pretzel with good mustard. By Friday evening the thought of the time and effort involved in actual cooking is a bridge too far – and you might as well forget about taking the 30 minutes to an hour it takes to find decent carryout. Delivery? Right. I live far enough into the wilds that nothing I’d want delivered even comes close to me with their drivers – Those that do, arrive with a stone cold meal.

This wasn’t most weeks, though. This week was special. I skipped the fruit. I skipped the cheese. I even skipped the pretzel and mustard. Moving straight on to the gin and tonic portion of the evening felt like a far better use of the small motivation I was able to dredge up. Maybe in a bit, once the juniper and botanicals have worked their magic, I’ll feel up for a trip to the kitchen to raid the peanut jar or open a can of something. Maybe. If not, that’s fine too. At the moment I’m perfectly fine and happy sitting here with no bells ringing, no email, and no one asking for a damned thing.

Three cheers for the bloody weekend.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. A week full of suck. The work I do to pay the bills is, by necessity, somewhat unpredictable. There’s very little way of knowing from day to day or week to week how high or fast the tide of work might be running. This week, all week, the tide was running high and fast and shoving every damned thing towards the rocks at every opportunity. Some weeks are like that. Still, I’ll be awfully glad to see the backside of this one… on the off chance that next week will contain less suck.

2. The good old days. I miss the good old days of the Great Plague – when the masses were all running scared and staying home. The commute into the office was an absolute dream back then. I imagine it’s how the leaders of the old Soviet Union felt, with lanes down the center of each highway reserved exclusively for them. Now it seems every schmuck with four wheels is back on the road. Good for the economy, I suppose, but I’m just not sure I’m in favor of it.

3. Allegany County. I couldn’t help but notice yesterday that my old home county is now sitting firmly atop the list as having the highest case rate of the Great Plague in the state of Maryland. I also noted, perhaps obviously, that for a while there the local hospital was so overrun with patients they were diverting sickies elsewhere… when and if they could find a bed. Now, I’m not saying all of these things could have been entirely avoided, but there’s an awfully simple way a lot of the troubles could have been minimized or mitigated… but that would depend on not getting your medical advice from talk radio and YouTube, so it’s a pretty big ask.

Water stuff…

If you’ve been keeping up with the raft of home improvement and repair projects I seem to have running at the moment, today was all about water.

The well intake got raised up about five feet, which should, theoretically, mean that it will no longer periodically draw in silt. That will hopefully address the occasional experience of ending up with a sink full of beach sand. Given the other major maintenance projects that the old codger I bought the place from had deferred, I suppose needing to tinker with the well for likely the first time in its 21 years isn’t awful.

Next, the household water supply has gone from single stage spin down sediment filter to a two-stage system that should be more than a match for anything down to 5-microns. If that doesn’t get the job done, we’ve left room to add a 3rd stage at the single micron level or even a reverse osmosis filter if I get really tired of screwing around.

My water, aside from sediment, and more recently, ants and ant parts, tests mercifully clear from other contaminants… the really advanced options are something I’m really hoping to avoid. Given how many times this short post has words like “should” or “hopefully” appearing, though, I’m mentally preparing myself to take things all the way. After all the jiggering and jostling, I’m going to give the water column a few days to settle before making any further judgments. 

After this, it’s on to appliance delivery and driveway repair. As always, I suspect whoever coined the phrase “the joy of home ownership” never, in fact, owned a home. 

Cancelled…

I’ve had some variation of satellite radio since the service only came as a stand-alone dongle that attached to your existing car radio. It’s been at least twenty years. In fact, somewhere in a box of defunct electronics, I probably still have that first receiver. You know, just in case I need it. 

In all that time, I’ve practiced the yearly pantomime of calling either Sirius or XM or more recently, SiriusXM, and threatening to cancel my subscription before it renewed at full price. Every year their customer service department responded by rolling out a wildly discounted offer to keep me on subscription.

This year they didn’t. The fully burdened month-to-month rate for two vehicles and streaming would have been $566.88 for the year. Their discounted offer for the same services was $298. Last year I re-upped for half that.

Look, I am an unashamed Howard Stern fan. I think he’s one of the best interviewers of the last decade… but Howard three days a week except during his two-month vacation isn’t enough to keep me on the hook at extortionate prices.

So, SiriusXM finally called, what they seems to assume was my bluff, and got themselves cancelled for their trouble.

I’ll be surprised if I don’t start getting reactivation offers before the end of the week… but they’re going to have to do a long way better than what was their “absolute best offer.” I kept them this long because, like cable television, having everything I wanted in one place was a convenience. However, there are too many podcasts and quality streaming services now for satellite radio to go around pretending they’re the premium service of old. 

Top load or: The old fashioned way…

Six years ago when I bought the current homestead, it came with a Bosch front loading washing machine. It’s quite a piece of kit. It’s got approximately 40 buttons on it and about 3700 different settings for getting your clothes just the right kind of clean (I guess). Honestly, I never loved it. Two hour wash cycles and having to let the door hang open for days after a load of laundry in order to avoid the stench of mold and mildew kind of turned me off of the whole front load concept.

Its replacement should be here in about a week. It’s a standard top loader from Whirlpool. Aside from the various rounded edges, it looks like home washing machines have looked in America for decades. No glass top, three or four knobs controlling maybe a dozen settings, and one button. My only concession to modernity was opting for the slightly more efficient impeller model versus a true agitator.

It’s not the kind of machine that turns the laundry room into a showplace, but it’s exactly what I wanted. I’m not the kind of person who wants to spend a lot of time tweaking settings on wash day. I want to dump in some detergent, pick hot or cold water, and push the start button… the same way I’ve been washing laundry my entire life, with the exception of the last six years when I was left to deal with someone else’s front loading ideal.

Plus, my nice middle of the road top loader still ended up costing less than the estimated repair on the ailing Bosch. I consider it a win both for personal preference and value for money.