What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Things from the Before Time. People are returning to the office. What I’ve noticed, particularly among a certain set of semi-senior or management types, is a quiet, unspoken determination to do things the way they were done in the Before Time. There’s a willful effort at suspending disbelief and denying the reality of the Great Plague. The fact that people aren’t quietly going along with their fervent wish to roll the clock back to February 2020 almost hits them as a surprise… as if they want to wish away the fact that over the last 30 months, the people didn’t find a better way to work and arguably a more rewarding way to live. But here they are, shocked and surprised that most of their colleagues aren’t thrilled and excited to commute, spend eight hours a day siting in florescent hell, or pile into a charter bus packed elbow to asshole with 53 of their new closest friends to take a two-hour ride. The powers at echelons higher than reality can make people return to cubicle land, but their expectation that anyone will do it with a smile in their heart is going to be sorely disappointed. 

Hurricane coverage. I’ve never really understood why networks make their anchors stand in the rain looking like drowned rats for their newscast. I know television is a visual medium, but I think everyone watching has had enough experience with rain to know what it looks like when you get caught in a downpour. Sure, show the aftermath. That’s probably newsworthy at some level. During the storm itself, though, there’s honestly just not that much to see that can’t be caught through a window or from under some minimal level of shelter. Sending grown ass adults to stand outside to demonstrate that it’s raining and windy, doesn’t feel particularly useful to my understanding of the coverage.

Being a dollar short and three months late. The plumbing company I had originally planned to use to install and new and improved water filtration system (more than two months ago) called rather sheepishly on Monday morning. The voicemail went a little something like “Oh, hey Mr. Tharp… We, uh, have a plan here for your filter system… We, uh, must have put it in someone else’s file and, uh, wanted to schedule a time to come out and get started on that work.” I appreciate the level of audacity it must take to make that call, particularly after I spent a month calling weekly to see where the plan was and when they were going to get started, before giving up and handing the project to a company that came out, drafted the plan, and did the work all within a week’s time. Mistakes, I’m told, happen. This, however, is one that could have been avoided at any of five or six points along the way if they had responded to a customer’s efforts to make contact. I encourage this company to go, and I can’t emphasize this enough, fuck themselves. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Eye strain. My eyes aren’t getting worse, the doc tells me. My prescription hasn’t changed now in three years. In response to my complaint about not being able to read deep into the night like I used to, “Your eyes are just getting old,” he says with a grin and the hint of a chuckle. Apparently looking at a computer all day and trying to read all night, is just straining the hell out of them, which is what’s making the world go all blurry after 8 PM every night. The fix, maybe, is to add a set of reading glasses to my current bifocal order. Theoretically, that will mean when I’m reading in the evenings, I won’t have to keep looking down through the bottom third of my lenses. If that doesn’t do it, we’ll order a set that really magnifies instead of just adjusting the focus for my crummy vision. I’d pretend to be indignant, but at this point I’m willing to try most anything to get the situation corrected or even just improved.

2. Autumn. We’ll see the first few hours of autumn today. I don’t particularly mind the onset of cooler weather, but I resent the hell out of the days getting shorter. If feels like losing a lot more than we’re gaining for the trouble. This time of year always comes along with a certain nagging black dog. History tells me he’ll be around for the next 10 or 12 weeks. I’ll perk up a bit at the solstice, when we’ve gone over the hump and days lengthen instead of grow shorter – with its promise of gaining something rather than losing it. Until then, I’ll simply go through the day with a slightly increased baseline level of aggravation. It’s probably not so much that anyone would notice, but I’ll damned well know it.

3. People. Donald Trump is easy to mock. He’s a twice impeached reality television star-in-chief who spent his final days in office plotting the undoing of our republican form of government and when caught red handed begged his followers not to believe the evidence seen by their own lying eyes. As we’ve learned over the last seven years of his candidacy, his term of office, and his post-presidential career, that’s just Donald being Donald. The really troublesome bit is the people, who despite all evidence – or perhaps because of it – still rally to the call of this disgraced carnival barker. Make no mistake, there’s still enough of them, added to critical mass of those who are simply ambivalent, that it’s entirely possible he’ll be on the ballot two years from now. You can’t blame the former host of The Celebrity Apprentice for that part. It’s only a possibility because people are gullible, too invested in the narrative to be open to new information, or too stuck on their pride to admit they’ve been misled and find another way ahead.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Protests. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember a sign waving, getting in the way of things protest that I’ve ever knowingly supported. The tactics most protesters employ seem almost perfectly designed to guarantee that I’ll either quietly oppose them or openly mock and deride them. The small “r” republican protestors who have been popping up in London this week aiming to disrupt the most solemn state occasion of the late Queen’s funeral are probably exactly the kind of friendless cranks you might expect to engage in that kind of ill-timed, boorish behavior. I’m not saying the Crown should necessarily haul them off to the tower, but if the rest of the populace got together and heaved them directly into the Thames, I’d likely look the other way and then have a good laugh about it.

2. Lindsey Graham. For the last six months every Republican who could find a TV camera earnestly declared that abortion was an issue that should rightly be resolved by the states. That the federal government has gotten too large and overreaching is a reasonable argument. The remedy, of course, isn’t to hand that misbegotten power to the states, but rather return it directly to the people, who are the font of power under the American system, and allow them each to decide based on their own particular light. But then here comes Lindsey Graham, boldly introducing a bill that not only flies in the face of small government orthodoxy, but which will be wildly unpopular with 60% or more of the electorate. It might buy him some votes from the Republican base in South Carolina, but otherwise it makes him look like a fucking moron.

3. Eyes. My eyes suck and have since I was a kid. Take away my glasses and I could probably squint my way through things at very close range, but forget about telling the difference between a car and a cow more than a couple of dozen yards away. I’m headed off to my annual eye exam tomorrow, where I plan to spend my hour griping and complaining that by 8PM, my eyes are shot. It’s a situation that’s beginning to interfere with my evening reading and that obviously can’t be allowed to stand. With the return of wasting hours of the week commuting to the office for reasons that defy logic, but make perfect sense to management on the near horizon, I can’t afford to lose another hour or two in the evening with my eyes running everything together into lines of black smudge. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. New food. I’ve got maybe 18 or 20 basic meals that I can make with my eyes closed. They’re reliably tasty and lead to plenty of leftovers. The trouble is, at some point, a guy gets tired of eating the same 20 basic meals and then tries to branch out with new recipes. In and of itself that’s not a bad thing. The real injury comes after the cooking, when you sit down and the dinner table and realize that although the meal may be nutritious and even edible, you just don’t like it. I think the biggest reason I keep falling back on the tried-and-true meals that I’m a bit burned out on is that the other side of the coin is that two out of three new meals attempted turns out being something I’ll choke down because it’s hot and ready, but the remainder of which ends up being tossed into the woods when I clean out the refrigerator. With the cost of groceries and the time investment to actually cook, new and different increasingly feels like a high-risk venture.

2. Alternative Pay. The president has issued his alternative pay proposal for fiscal year 2023. At 4.6%, it’s the biggest yearly raise I’ve seen in 19 years of service. It’s a number that would feel impressive if it weren’t just half of what the official rate of inflation was this year. Having lived through the years of furlough and pay freezes, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth, but given the prevailing circumstances of the overall economic situation, I’m also not going to hire a brass band to celebrate the “generosity” of the Biden administration.

3. Bicyclists. I don’t have any intrinsic problem with bicycles. Some of the people who ride them, however, are deeply suspect. The two who decided to cross the Susquehanna River at 4:15 on a Friday afternoon obviously had no regard for their own health and safety. Yes, what they did was nominally legal, but it seems to me it’s a case of knowing the difference between the things you can do and the things you should do. Taking up a full lane of a heavily traveled and narrow bridge during peak commuting time was patently dangerous to them and to everyone who had to unexpectedly try to avoid them. The only positive I could see from when I finally managed to shift lanes and get around them, is that the look on their faces made it abundantly clear they were aware of having made a seriously questionable life choice.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Shopping local. There’s a local shop that will remain nameless that I’ve been trying to go to for weeks now. According to the sign on the door and the internet, they open at 10:00 every morning seven days a week. I know they’re not closed as I’ve seen the place open when I’ve been on my way to do other things, but the three times now I’ve tried to go there between 11:00 and noon on Saturday, they’ve been locked up tighter than a drum. Sometimes their “open” light will even be on, but the place is dark and the tumbleweeds roll across the parking lot. I like doing business with this outfit – otherwise I wouldn’t have already given them three chances – but there’s way too much competition out there from other brick and mortar shops and the internet to keep getting met with a dark storefront at the times that are convenient and when you’d think would be some of the most lucrative sales hours of the week.

2. Good help. As the master bathroom limped towards completion, I began turning my attention towards a few minor projects I wanted to have knocked out before the cold weather arrived. The first, getting the exterior trim scraped and painted, was lined up. It would have been a quick hit, $1,000 “fill in” project. Something one painter could have knocked out in half a day when they had down time between other, larger projects. I thought we were set to go, but the painters have gone radio silent. The second, an upgraded and improved whole-house water filter was also on the drawing board. Water tests were done and the design was supposed to be in progress. And now the plumber has stopped replying to calls and messages. Don’t get me started on the gutter people who said they’ve been here but weren’t (as evidenced by the lack of them being on camera and the fact that they never sent me a bill).  I’ve got jobs to do and cash money to spend, but finding someone who wants to do the former to get the latter is like pushing shit uphill. I absolutely get why people say “no one wants to work anymore.” So instead of hiring a local company, I’ll go out and spend twice as much with the big national or regional outfits that have consistently showed up when I’ve called.

3. Free shit. In the last fifteen years we’ve been given every kind of handout you can imagine. From the days of the 2008 financial crisis to student loan forgiveness, there’s cash flowing for everyone. Well, as long as you’re the right kind of everyone, I suppose; one that checks the box on whatever social, demographic, or political group our elected representatives are trying to curry favor with at the time. My key take away is that I don’t fit into any of those groups. I apparently fall into a separate category that’s always the billpayer and never the beneficiary of the largess that’s poured out the Treasury’s back door. A million years ago when a group of us asked our high school principal to schedule an expanded slate of AP classes, he waived us off by explaining “You smart kids will do okay no matter what we do to you.” I think he even believed that was some kind of compliment. It’s different lyrics, but the same old song.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Conflicting reports. I watched back-to-back news report earlier this week that focused on aspects of the current economy. The first story railed about inflation, average pay being too low, and mulling the idea of eternal bailouts for everyone/universal basic income. The very next story went on to report that Maryland’s casinos had their most profitable month ever. I’m not saying those stories are mutually exclusive, but I’m going to need a bit more in depth analysis before I accept that the economy is collapsing while the citizens of our fair state have allocated so much of their disposable income to packing the local casinos to the rafters.

2. Door-to-door sales. Does anyone really hire a pest service on their front stoop at 7 PM on Wednesday evening? I just can’t believe it’s the kind of thing that’s an effective business model in 2022. And yet they keep on coming, so I guess someone must be buying. I honestly can’t remember anything I’ve ever bought based on random people showing up at my front door, with the possible exception of Girl Scouts pushing cookies. I truly believe the world would be a better place if we all agreed that it’s time to end the era of door-to-door peddlers. The only thing they’ve ever done for me is drive the resident animals into a high state of agitation and that’s not a good look for someone who wants me to give them money.

3. Florida. This week a Florida court decided that a 16-year-old girl was not “sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.” The logical extension of that argument, therefore, is that the court believes the teen is sufficiently mature to have and raise a baby, which strikes me as a complete inversion of basic common sense. I’ve, fortunately, never needed to raise a baby into a functional human, but it seems to me that it’s the kind of activity that would benefit from an over-abundance of maturity and responsibility to be done properly. I might go so far as to posit that the state has a vested interest in encouraging the most responsible and mature of their citizens to have children rather than the other way around. Here’s the State of Florida, though, cleaving to the lesser, ass-backward standard. I won’t even pretend to be surprised.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Good help. I’ve been trying to get a downspout cleaned now for the last 6 weeks. It’s the company I’ve been using for years without complaint or problem, but for this they “lost” my first appointment and now I’m told “Oh, the guy was out there about two weeks ago.” A couple of things there: 1) I’ve been home almost continuously at any time they could have been here and I’m fairly sure I’d have noticed ladders and someone stomping around on my roof; 2) Even if for some reason I missed them, the cameras wouldn’t have; 3) In the past, their guy has always left a bill either in the mailbox or suck in the front door; and 4) The goddamned gutter is still overflowing every time there’s more than a drizzle. I’ve had these guys out here twice a year for the last three or four years with no complaints or problems, so I have no idea why they’ve suddenly turned into a shitshow. I’m out of patience, but expect someone else will be happy to take my money.

2. Assumed representation. Twitter is full of posts that start with “I speak for all Americans when I say…“ Let me be clear – No the fuck you do not. Not one person who has ever led off with that phrase has ever spoken for me even when I happened to agree with what they said. I’m a grown ass adult. The only words put in my mouth are the ones I decide to speak on my own. The presumption that you can or should speak for me or anyone else is makes you sound like an absolute gibbering idiot.

3. Balloons. A couple of times a year I have to schlep out into my woods with a pole saw and attempt to recover a mylar party balloon that’s caught up in the trees. People who see balloon releases as the high point of an event rank somewhere in my estimation below the ones who think fireworks are the height of entertainment. There’s literally no reason to let balloons go “into the wild.” Your message didn’t get to Jesus or your dead grammy or anyone else. It ends up in the woods or in the water or in the fields and stays there forever unless someone happens to find it and clean up your goddamned mess – like mommy use to follow you around wiping your nose and tidying up after you. So maybe try being a responsible adult and holding a memorial, or an awareness raising event, or photo op that doesn’t end with your trash becoming someone else’s problem.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Alex Jones. Since he broke into popular consciousness, Alex Jones has been a bloviating douche canoe. I can only assume he was one long before anyone ever heard of him. He’s a living example of being able to fool some of the people all of the time. Now, not all of that is exactly his fault. You’d have to be particularly weak minded to buy into the absolute bullshit he peddles on a regular basis. Watching this cowardly twatwaffle get absolutely bitchslapped around the courtroom, trapped like a rat, has been an absolute treat. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. 

2. Republican spin. Whether they admit it or not, Republicans were shocked by Kansans voting by a large margin to retain abortion rights as part of their state constitution. Kansas is supposed to be a rock-ribbed, ruby red bastion of conservatism. Their two key takeaways should be: 1) Not all conservatives are cheerfully going along with the religio-fascist wing of the party and 2) The majority of voters in general oppose them to the point that brings them out in unexpectedly large numbers. I’m under no illusions that Republicans won’t win some of these votes in other places, but Kansas was absolutely a warning shot put across their bow… no matter how hard they try to spin it as something else.

3. Brittney Griner. The media is tangentially focused on the ongoing arrest, trial, and sentencing of Brittney Griner. While I share their general feeling that I’d want to be just about anywhere other than a Russian jail, it’s one of those issues I can’t quite bring myself to rend my garments over. As a traveler, I’ve always considered it my responsibility to obey the laws of the country I happened to be in at the time. At sixteen, I found myself somehow in the middle of a protest march working its way through the streets of Mexico City. Somewhere there’s a picture of me looking entirely perplexed about what was going on around me. I have no idea if it’s illegal in Mexico or not, but even as a child, I had a decent understanding that I, as an American citizen, had no business in the middle of a Mexican protest. We beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel. If I can sort that much out at 16, expecting a 30-year-old woman to not carry substances known to be illegal in the country where she’ll be traveling doesn’t feel like it should be a big ask. If it does happen to be too much to trouble yourself with, well, I suppose you have to accept that you’ve rolled the dice and may have to accept the consequences. 

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.

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.