What Annoys Jeff this Week?

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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Logging in. When I boot up my work computer in the morning, I have to log in using my access card and PIN. When I log into Outlook, I use my access card and PIN. One Drive? Access card and PIN. Teams. One more time, log in with access card and PIN. Just to start the day I have to log in using the same credentials four to five times depending what opens on startup. I’m sure there’s some important network security reason this is necessary, but it feels dumb and is 100% a daily irritant. 

2. Upgraded masks. For the last two years, I’ve survived plague free by 1) being vaccinated and boosted, 2) generally avoiding people as much as practical and 3) wearing a standard cloth face covering whenever I had to go into a questionable indoor environment. It hasn’t felt like all that big an ask. With the latest variant, word has gone out that it’s advised to switch over to more robust masks – primarily N95 or KN95 style respirators. That’s well and good, but I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money so far on various upgraded masks and a host of add on extenders, inserts, and other bits to get a better fit. So far, no combination of any of them has given me a mask that doesn’t immediately blow hot air around my nose and cheeks and turning my glasses into a solid wall of fog sitting on the end of my nose. Not falling victim to the Great Plague is important, but if I can’t be both maximally protected and fog-free, I’m going to have to err on the side of being able to see what the hell I’m doing when I need to leave the house.

3. Maryland’s Republican governor has proposed eliminating taxes on retirees as a means to discourage people from spending their working lives here and then immediately decamping for jurisdictions that don’t tax retirement income. For those who will face a potential tax bill from Maryland when they retire, it has to be a consideration. For instance, if you have the longevity to enjoy a 20-year retirement and the state reaches into your pocket to the tune of $4,000 a year, that’s upwards of $80,000 you’re leaving on the table for the convenience of not moving to a more tax friendly state. That’s not the kind of win the Democratic controlled general assembly will want to hand a popular Republican governor. Given Maryland’s historic love of raising taxes on its residents, it’s not the kind of thing they’d want to do if there the governor was a Democrat, either. I’m an unabashed lover of my native state, and I’d love to be able to make a plan to stay here along the shores of the Chesapeake forever, but unless our fearless leaders end up endorsing a plan like this, finances are all too likely to dictate otherwise when the time comes.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Systems of systems. Outlook was down most of the day on Wednesday. That was after three days of fighting another “file sharing” system. It’s possible that this week will enter my personal record books as the one in which I spent the most effort to accomplish the least. I’m sure there are good and fine reasons why all out tech seems to be tits up more often than it’s not, but it continues to be one of the top two or three most reliably annoying elements of the job. It’s just one of the many reasons I’m dedicated to being able to walk out the door in thirteen years, five months, and a hand full of days.

2. The week before Christmas. It’s the week before Christmas, or close enough for all practical proposes. It’s certainly less than eight working hours before my long Christmas holiday commences. It’s also been just about the busiest week of work I can remember since the beginning of the Great Plague. Easily 50% of the week’s dumpster fires are entirely self-inflicted because someone just got around to looking at something that should have been handled last week, or because our electronic communication system suck, or for untold other reasons. I shouldn’t say this with so many bosses, former bosses, and other trusted professionals following along, but with seven hours left in my work year, every single one of my fucks has already been allocated. Anyone coming at me between now and 4:00 Friday afternoon expecting much more than a blank stare is going to be sorely disappointed.

3. Prednisone. Thanks to the as-yet unidentified reason my arm had been broken out in a rash for about three weeks, I had a 4-day course of prednisone this week. The (mostly) good news is that the arm has sort of cleared up – it at least looks a lot better than it did a week ago and I’m not longer tempted to satisfy the itch by scratching it with a circular saw. What the four days of prednisone also gave me was an insatiable craving for salt, rampaging blood glucose levels, an even shorter temper than usual, and I’m pretty sure at least one panic attack. I have no idea how people stay on that stuff for weeks or months on end. Next time I’ll just scratch myself bloody and it will still be a less awful experience. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Wet ink. Why, in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty-one, do businesses still require wet ink on basic transactional paperwork. All I want to do is to make a pretty simple deposit into my retirement account. Maybe. If it were a withdrawal, I could see it. Maybe. Although I’m perfectly happy to let anyone in the world put funds in my IRA if the spirit moves them. In the time of instant transactions, waiting around for a few days until the mail arrives, waiting a few days until the return post reaches them, and then the action taking place. It really just feels like there has to be a better way.

2. Plastics. This week I got to enjoy the mandatory de-plasticizing of a new coffee maker pot. The entire house reeks of vinegar after brewing half a dozen pots of it in hopes that I’ll eventually be able to have coffee that doesn’t taste of plastic. At this point I’m not sure coffee tinged with plastic is actually worse than the hot vinegar stench permeating every inch of the house. 

3. One o’clock. For the last few weeks, I’ve struggled to get past 1 o’clock in the afternoon without my head slamming into my desk. I’ve always gotten a little groggy in the mid-afternoon, but this is something altogether different. It’s the kind of sleepy that demands I either get on my feet or go immediately to sleep. It’s not ideal if you’re making even the barest effort to be a responsible and responsive employee. This had better just be a passing thing, because otherwise I might need to talk to the boss about expanding my cube to allow room for a cot.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Unless they pay a particularly obsessive level of attention to detail, no one would notice that the link to this post includes the path “what-annoys-jeff-this-week-500/.”

That “500” bit deserves a bit of a call out. It means this is the 500th weekly installment of What Annoys Jeff this Week. Allowing for the occasional week where something else occupied this space on Thursday evening, that’s just about 10 years’ worth of annoyances electronically documented for posterity.

That’s a lot of being annoyed, though it’s 100% on brand. Believe me, no one knows that better than I do… but really, have you seen the world out there? How could anyone be expected to walk through it every day and not be filled with constant, low-level rage and general disaffection for their fellow man?

Maybe that’s what I find so annoying this week – that so many don’t seem to be disgusted or bothered by it in any way… as if profound mindlessness is the proper and inevitable deep background noise of the universe. The very idea of going through life with that kind of devil-may-care attitude and sunny disposition makes me want to bash skulls.

And that seems to guarantee a steady march to What Annoys Jeff this Week 1000 in due course. As long as I manage not to blow out a valve or succumb to a massive stroke in the meantime from the unescapable fuckery we’ll see in the next ten years.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Court TV (Continued). We’re in week two or three or five or whatever of wall to wall coverage of whichever “case of the century” happens to be taking place at any given time. I’m pretty sure it aggravated the hell out of me last week too, but it’s worth repeating since the local and national news outlets seem to have no problem repeating themselves at every opportunity. A simple “the jury is still out” would be sufficient, but I suppose that wouldn’t let the talking heads opine about why the jury is still out, what it means, who’s behind it, and why that makes everything a nail biter. I’d be thrilled if someone would just give us a news outlet that focused more on facts and a lot less on opinion. Good luck filling the 24 hour news cycle with facts, I guess.

2. The Thanksgiving rush. Thanksgiving isn’t one of those restful and restorative holidays. Filled with travel, overeating, and a crush of in person or online shopping, it always feels like there’s a certain urgency to the rhythm of the day. It kicks off a 4-day weekend that’ll feel like it went by in about 35 minutes. It’s still just about my favorite holiday, but I’m going to feel like I need a good long rest when it wraps up.

3. Roving bands of what I can only describe as looters have reportedly begun pillaging high end retail shops in San Francisco. The latest headline makers were their takedowns of such big names as Saks, Louis Vuitton, and Nordstrom. I’m only left to wonder if and when the powers that be in San Fran might decide that their policy of letting “petty” crime like shoplifting go unchallenged and unpunished turns out to have been a pretty bad idea and does nothing so much as encourage increasingly troublesome criminal behavior.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Electricity. There are a lot of things I’m willing to jump into action and take care of around the house. Most things involving electricity don’t make the cut. I can replace an outlet or, if pressed, replace a ceiling fan, but beyond that in the universe of things that involve faults, the unusual, or things behaving badly, I’m a man who knows my limitations. That’s why I had a pair of electricians here at 7:30 this morning to diagnose a room full of oddly behaving outlets. Turns out, all those outlets were on a switch… located 30 feet away in a different room. Why it was designed like that is anyone’s guess. All is operating normally now, but gods, I could have fiddle around for weeks and never a connection between office outlets and living room switches.

2. The Republican Party. Does this even need going into? Paul Gosar, Maggie Green, Don Trump, Matt Gaetz, Lou Gohmert, and Jim Jordan are the contemporary standard barers for the party I’ve identified with since long before I was registered to vote. If that doesn’t scream that American conservatives have lost our way, and possibly our minds, I have no idea what would.

3. Court TV. If there’s anything worse than sitting in a courthouse watching a trial because you’re required to participate in it in some way, it would have to be voluntarily watching a trial on television. I don’t care what the latest “trial of the century” is, I just can’t see spending time hanging on every word. Like sausage, I don’t have any interest or need to know how it gets made. The only thing of even passing interest is how it turns out in the end. The breathless coverage across every media outlet in the country must be of interest to someone, but for my money it’s a waste of otherwise good airtime and electrons.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The cost of comfort. The cost of propane this winter is going to be stupid. By contrast, my electric bill in the winter is usually minimal. By my way of thinking, I could reasonably knock a degree or two off the thermostat if I just put a space heater in the office where I spend my telework days. It’s a fine idea. The office is a nice steady 68 degrees, which by my standards is perfectly comfortable. The problem now, predictably, is that every time I walk out of that particular room – to get a fresh cup of coffee or to make lunch – the rest of the house feels like wandering around a damned icebox. It’s downright unpleasant. I’m not at all sure this new cost saving scheme of mine will survive the arrival of actual winter. I suspect my desire for comfort and convenience will trump my aversion to paying overinflated fuel bills. The next major project here might just be scoping out what it will take to replace my current, elderly air conditioning unit with a heat pump to drive the operating cost of keeping the whole place warm down to something more reasonable.

2. Missing historical context. For some reason the algorithm keeps feeding me all sorts of articles in which people – usually the under 30 set – are opining about all of us now living in the era of a great reset. Most of their puff pieces seem to be based on the idea that some combination of the Great Plague, hundreds of thousands of jobs available, rising inflation, the collapse of the modern financial order under the weight of “late state capitalism,” and a litany of other leftist fever dream issues are the birth pangs of some kind of brave new world. Their earnestness is kind of adorable… but I can’t help but think they’re missing every shred of historical context when they decry their lives in “the worst timeline.”

3. An expired card. The card that I use to pay for basically everything online expired a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of a near constant barrage of “card expired” emails when various companies have tried to push through their charges. Updating this information isn’t particularly hard and in most cases it’s not even all that time consuming, but it’s a bleeding nuisance. It really feels like one of those elements of online retail / bill paying that should have a much more elegant solution… and no, the answer shouldn’t be to just hand over my bank accounting and routing information and trust 20 or 30 businesses to keep it secure forever. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Parity. Part of my job this week was calling around and talking to people from other organizations who are saddled with their own version of my favorite dog and pony show. It’s no surprise that everyone I spoke to runs theirs a little differently. I didn’t uncover anything unexpected or particularly helpful, but I did discover that everywhere else, the person these other offices put in charge of their annual spectacular is at least graded out as a deputy director. Put another way they are all, a minimum of one good pay grade or two notches on the org chart higher than me. Yeah, that was a feel-good moment right there.

2. Inflation alarm. The federal government poured vast amounts of money into the economy over the last eighteen months in the form of direct payments via enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments and the Paycheck Protection Program. People, as they tend to do when they have money in their pockets, went on a buying binge. Stocks, houses, and consumer goods were all in the crosshairs of people with cash to spend. We spent so hard we overwhelmed the supply side’s ability to keep up with demand. And now, the headlines are screaming that we’re supposed to be shocked that inflation has taken hold and the price of good and services is increasing. Beyond the few classes I had to take as part of a social science major, I’m not a student of economics… even so, the results of increasing demand, limited supply, and boatloads of money in circulation is almost entirely predictable, no?

3. The waiting. Here I sit. About seven hours after getting the COVID-19 booster jammed into my arm. I feel fine, with barely even a sore arm to show for my trouble. What I do have, though, is the uncomfortable period of waiting. My first COVID shot was a non event. After getting my second Moderna shot way back in March, I had a bit of an aching arm, but went to bed and woke up the next morning feeling fine. Exactly twenty-four hours after the jab, though, I got to experience the unpleasant hit-by-a-bus feeling advertised as a potential side effect – chills, aches, lethargy – pretty much the full list with the merciful exception of nausea. That one skipped me, somehow. In any case, I’m sitting here, waiting to see what things look like around lunchtime tomorrow. Prevention is worth a pound of cure and all that, but I’m trying to mentally prepare for another lost day.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Friday afternoon. Once upon a time, I actually enjoyed Fridays. They were a day full of promise. Now, of course, Fridays are just the day the Good Idea Fairy makes its rounds or people remember shit they should have done earlier in the week and try to jam it through so they can claim it got wrapped up before close of business. I can only urge you not to be that guy. Don’t wait until Friday afternoon. I promise you, deep down in places professionals aren’t supposed to talk about, no one give a shit at 3:30 on Friday how good an idea you’re having or whether something gets done or not. Maybe there’s an exception for immediate threats to life and safety, but otherwise all anyone on the line cares about on Friday is getting the hell away from cubicle hell for a few days. I know the uberbosses, enthroned high on Olympus, have forgotten their days lower down on the org chart and truly believe that everyone wants to (or at least should) give 300% 24 hours a day, but the heights of Olympus aren’t a reflection of any kind of universal reality. Sometimes those memos are just going to linger over the weekend… and I’m perfectly fine with that.

2. Paper cups. I know it’s saving the world or whatever, but I miss Chick-fil-a’s Styrofoam cups. In its new, socially responsible paper cups, the lemonade gets watered down on the ride between drive-thru and office. It’s just disappointing.

3. Heating and cooling season. So here we are well into autumn. It’s a special time of year where I fire up the furnace each morning to knock the chill off the house and then a few hours later when passive solar heating has sent the indoor temperature well into the 70s, switch the air conditioner back on to get the place back down to a reasonable sleeping temperature. At least in this part of the world this mixed season doesn’t usually last long. While it’s here though, I spend an unreasonable amount of time pondering the time, effort, and cash it takes to maintain a steady 68 degrees.