Smart people…

Believe it or not, there was a time when I was (slightly) less judgmental. I was mostly happy to let people go on about their business while I went about mine. That arrangement is perfectly serviceable until “their business” starts to conflict with what’s going on over here in my lane. Once that happens, I’m all too happy to act as a jealous guardian of my own interests.

I like to think that over the years I’ve managed to excise most of the truly stupid people from my life. Not being a particularly social creature, my circle has always been relatively small. Following a season of elections, protests, and plagues, though, that circle has grown smaller still… though I wonder if it’s not about to get culled even further.

See, the thing is, I’m starting to see people who I always assumed were reasonably intelligent unpacking whole steamer trunks of batshit crazy. That’s ok, I guess, when done in the privacy of their own home where no one can see their ass showing, but when you’re doing it loudly and in public, well, that’s a different animal altogether.

I could say it’s something I’m just seeing from my right wing friends, but it’s not. Some of the lefties are absolutely determined to get themselves out there on the lunatic fringe too. If the last 18 months has taught me anything it’s that I’m just not sure I’ve got the patience or the temperament to be tolerant of people saying or doing patently dumb shit on a regular basis.

I’m self-aware enough to know I’m not the smartest guy in the room. I’m certainly able to my fair share of dumb shit… but I try to make it a limited experience rather than basing my entire personality around it. It turns out that’s not universally true.

Plugging away…

It’s Monday. More specifically it’s Monday before the long Independence Day weekend. By itself, that would be all the reason by brain needed to be vaguely uninterested and disengaged for the next four days. I’m sure that’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to say out loud. I should be filling this space with key words like “commitment,” “dedication,” and “focus,” in case any of the bosses stop by to have a look around. 

In my defense, though, it’s not just a response to a three-day weekend. Those are common enough – and while I surely appreciate them, they’re not usually enough to drive me completely to distraction. Tacking on an extra four vacation days to round out the second (and last) nine-day weekend of the summer, though, is a different animal altogether. 

The first half of the year – the good half with plague restrictions and social distance and encouragement to stay home – seems to have slipped by effortlessly. I don’t in any way imagine the back half of the year – the part where we’re supposed to get back to an approximation of “normal” from the before times – will be nearly as pleasant. That means whatever days off I scrape together from here on out are going to be carrying an increasingly heavier weight of expectations. 

So yeah, I’m just over here plugging away and trying to get through the week with as little fuss and headache as possible… and maybe looking out over the next six months and figuring out where I want to jam in the remaining 123 hours of vacation time to get the most bang for my buck. 

Good idea, bad timing…

I don’t suspect it’s a surprise that along with the rest of the real estate market, sales of vacation homes have been red hot over the last year. I mean with travel severely curtailed and many vacation destinations closed, having a dedicated vacation property feels like it would be a good idea, even if not exactly a good value. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t periodically trolled real estate sites looking at properties from beachfront to high desert during the plague year(s).

I like the overall idea of having a vacation property, but in the details is where the dream starts to break down. I mean I don’t like cleaning the house I have now. I do it regularly, but I begrudge every hour spent on the task. A house hours away that also needs to be cleaned and maintained feels like it would sap a lot of the restful and restorative effects of having it in the first place. Plus, once upon a time I carried three separate mortgages. In the last two years I’ve gotten very comfortable having worked that down to just having one note to service. Doubling the number of monthly mortgage payments along with all the other ancillary bills like electricity and internet, also feels distinctly non-relaxing.

Despite occasionally looking, I’ve more or less decided against the idea of vacation property for the foreseeable future. I could say it’s a money thing and leave it at that. Everyone would likely understand that logic, but that’s not the biggest hurdle in my mind. It’s the sheer painful logistics of quick trips that makes the idea a likely hard pass for me. There’s finding trusted agents to tend a cat and tortoise while I’m away. Then there’s loading the dogs and their half-truckload of basic maintenance equipment, getting them settled into a different place, and shortly thereafter reloading everything to drive back home. I don’t travel light and consequently, neither do the dogs. Maybe that’s some kind of moral failing, but it’s reality.

As much as I’d like to blow out of work on a random Friday afternoon and lay my head down somewhere in proximity to beaches or mountains, organizing all the moving parts sounds like perfect agony – and feels like something that would suck up every ounce of joy I managed to find in having a second establishment. It’s something to consider, perhaps, when I’ve finished whoring out my brain for 40 hours of each week and there are big buckets of free time, but here and now, the time just isn’t right.

On knowing your coin…

Aside from books, I’m not a particularly avid collector of many things. One exception is Fostoria’s coin pattern glassware. My first pieces were bits from home. I suspect they were mostly things my mother was mostly tired of dusting around and ended up with me because I’m a soft touch for whatever object comes along with a family connection.

Over time, I’ve added to those first three pieces pretty steadily – maybe a piece or two a year as I find them. Coming across new bits for the collection “in the wild” is more entertaining for me than bulk auction buys. I’m not in a hurry to complete a set, so it’s largely a case of adding what I find when I find them.

This past weekend, in recognition of the impromptu three day weekend, I seemed to come across pieces of coin pattern in every shop I walked into. I was awash in an ocean of the stuff. Usually I’d say that’s a good problem to have.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with every single piece I picked up. Fifty percent of it was “reproduction,” or more precisely legitimate pieces made not by Fostoria, but more recently by Lancaster Colony. It’s still nice stuff, but my collection is focused on earlier pieces so I left all of those where I found them. Some of the examples were reproductions pretending to be vintage – their coins sandblasted or acid etched to give the illusion of proper frosting on the coins themselves. Those are always a hard pass.

The real killers were the ones that didn’t fall into either of those categories – and they were correspondingly harder not to bring home with me. These were the original bowls paired with “fake” lids or original lids paired with fake bowls. They were probably the most disappointing of all, since they were in a couple of the harder to find color options. Still, I left them alone, as trying to find the right replacement lid or bowl on its own could take years, if it ever came along at all.

Why am I telling you this? Just a reminder, I guess, that if you’re going to be a collector of anything, knowing a bit about it besides “looks pretty on a shelf” is in order. Otherwise I could have spent a few hundred dollars last Friday and come home with a dozen things that looked like they should fill holes in the collection, but really didn’t. I’ve no idea how that applies to anyone or anything else, but it feels like a decent enough life tip.

Normal sounds…

The schedule I keep while working from home isn’t all that much different than the schedule I keep at the office. Every morning around 9:30, I’m ready for a stretch and a little walk around after two hours of sitting, caffeinating, and reading email. It’s in that spirit that I took the dogs out this morning for their mid-morning bathroom break.


That’s when I realized the outside wasn’t thunderously loud with the screeching of cicadas. Oh, they’re still there “singing” in the background, but they’re not overwhelming every other noise in the woods for the first time in weeks.

I don’t know if it’s just because this morning is relatively cool compared to last week or if it’s a sign that we’re truly over the hump with these little bastards. Either way, for a few minutes this morning I enjoyed the outside in a way I haven’t in weeks.

Those few minutes, coffee in hand, listening to the normal sounds of my woods returning, felt surprisingly good – like something I didn’t even know I needed.

It’s a truly small win, but as the kids might say, “I’m here for it.”

It’s Mountain Williams if you’re being formal…

I know I’ve once again come late to the party, but I just finished reading Hilllbilly Elegy over the weekend. I know in in the relatively short time from publication to the release of its movie version, it’s gone from media darling to being trashed for the author’s politics. It’s hardly the first time a “problematic” book has ended up on my shelves and it surely won’t be the last to find a home there.

Avoiding any political discussion of the author or anything else, I clearly heard echoes of truth in the text – echoes from a childhood back home and back when, down in the valleys of Maryland’s coal country.

Though I grew up in Squirrel Neck Hollow – or up squirrel neck if you’re local – I don’t have a particular strong affinity for hillbilly culture as Vance describes it. I might not have been raised in it, but the first half of my life was strongly flavored by it.

I mercifully missed out on the drug abuse and abject poverty – though both were in abundance no more than a stone’s throw away back in the 80s. The stories of batshit crazy relatives, of shouting matches, knockdown drag out fights over small piques of honor, of the extended family living way too close and being way too involved in everyone else’s lives stirred more than a few long slumbering memories.

It’s hard not to reflect on how my own life has spooled out as he mused about alternative opportunities of success for those who went away – who joined the military, followed career paths out of the mountains and hollows, went away to college, or through circumstances found themselves further afield.

I’m not sure I buy into all of J.D. Vance’s theories, but credit where it’s due, because he painted a picture of a world that I might not have entirely lived in, but that I walked through often enough to recognize authenticity when I see it.  

Irreplicable…

Over the weekend I saw three separate posts on Facebook saying some derivation of “They’ll replace you at work before your obituary is published, but you’re irreplicable at home.”

Based on my decidedly unscientific observation of human behavior, this has to be one of the greatest lies we tell ourselves. Not the part about being utterly replicable to your employer, of course. That bit is gospel truth. But being indispensable at home? Please. 

Looking around at the number of people who are regularly being cheated on, cheating on their significant other, getting divorced, meeting the 3rd “love of their life” in the last year, having kids they don’t see or support, barely functioning due to chemical dependency, or otherwise contributing nothing to their family or society at large, it seems to me that a fair number of us are every bit as dispensable at home we are to an employer. I suppose that’s the kind of thing we’re not supposed to say in polite company, though.

Look, I guess you’ve got to tell yourself whatever it takes to get through the night or to give some semblance of meaning in the face of a universe that truly does not give one shit… but realistically, we’re mostly just impressively complex electrochemical bio-machines designed to propagate our genes. Maybe it’s not as comforting, but it has the stench of honesty that I’ve increasingly come to appreciate.

90 good minutes…

I had 90 good minutes yesterday. Between turning the light’s out on this year’s Big Event and getting home to find every faucet in my house was spewing sand-infused water.

Blowing out the filters and a bunch of pipes last night reduced maybe 95% of visible particulates, but there’s still a bit of grainy residue at the bottom of every glass of water, so I’m left to conclude that something is not quite right somewhere between the submersible pump and the filter.

Twenty-four hours later, I sit here with calls in to two local well drilling companies in hopes that one of them will call back and get someone over to give the system a look over from end to end. I’m going to take another run at the main filter tonight in hopes that I can get just a little more juice out of it until the professionals get around to taking my money.

I mean a little sand isn’t likely to kill me, but on general principle I don’t think the last swallow of water from any glass shouldn’t be crispy. I’m pretty sure that’s the situation that’s going to cast a pall over my weekend.

72 hours…

It’s Friday. That used to mean something. Usually I’d welcome it unreservedly. This week, though, it just means the countdown to the inevitable raft of stupid that will consume all of next week is about to set sail.

There’s one final waypoint on Monday. It’s the last formal opportunity for the gods on Olympus to inject changes into a timeline that’s been tinkered with for months now. Certainly it’s been sloshed around long enough that a reasonable person could have already spotted anything they wanted to change. Life in the bureaucracy, of course, mustn’t rely on the expectation of the gods being reasonable… or even that they’ve looked at anything until the last possible moment.

It may be Friday, but there remains an entire weekend and a Monday before things start to happen and inertia exerts itself on the course of events. On Friday evening it’s still entirely possible for someone to breathe the wrong way sometime in the next 72 hours and send the whole thing spiraling off into a chaotic hell dimension.

But sure, other than that lurking in the background, I’m ready to enjoy the weekend.

More news from our stupid century…

I saw an article a couple of days ago from a nominally reputable news source, published under the headline “Retailers urged to re-think police calls for low-level crimes.”

Unsurprisingly, I fall into the camp that would take the exact opposite approach. As long as people are rewarded, or at a minimum not punished for criminal behavior, there’s no disincentive at all against continuing to engage in that behavior. I’m no sociologist, but it feels like a reasonable assumption that if I get away with some number of these “low-level” crimes, at some point I may be tempted to escalate towards criminal actions that aren’t minor. That’s pure speculation based on my estimation of basic human behavior, of course.

I’d hoped we could all agree on something as basic as stating “crime is bad.” Apparently here in the 21st century even that is a bridge too far.

While I’m perfectly willing to concede that some crimes are worse than others, I’m nowhere close to the idea that we shouldn’t enforce the law, deter would be criminals, and punish those who choose to live outside the law. I’d go so far as to say there should be more arrests and prosecutions for criminal activities rather than fewer. Otherwise, have the courage to change the laws so everyone has an equal opportunity to pass counterfeit notes, shoplift, or engage in whatever other petty criminal behavior strikes their fancy in a guilt free environment.

Retailers may be willing to look the other way, but catering to a criminal element by condoning or enabling bad behavior feels like precisely the opposite of the actions we need to be taking to discourage and penalize criminal activity.