The Bathroom Report: Day 19

Good news… The county has signed off on the rough electric, which is nice, I suppose. The plumbers were back today to correct two incredibly nitnoid items their inspector found. Otherwise, as we arrive at the end of third full week of this project, it feels like the process involves a lot more down time than actual work. As I read the schedule, we’re now about a week behind the original plan.

Maybe I just notice it more because as we trundle on towards the one month mark, I’m ready to get out of the guest room and back into my own bed. Sure, the new arrangement has developed its own rhythm, but I’d very much like the old one back sooner rather than later. 

The county is supposed to be back to re-inspect the now new and improved rough plumbing on Monday. I assume once that’s happened, the pace will pick back up again. Yes, I know that patience is an alleged virtue, but after eight months of waiting to begin and now closing in on the end of a month of work in progress, I really just want to take a damned shower and have whole sections of the house that aren’t closed off, tarped, and being used for storage. Plus, not having a parade of perfect strangers wandering in and through the house every day will be a nice perk too.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. My right foot. Last Thursday I noticed a little catch in my foot, especially if I were standing still for too long. By Tuesday I was walking with an undisguised limp. Here, now, on Thursday leaving my foot flat on the floor is an agony… and let’s just say I won’t be releasing film of me gimping my way around the house. I don’t mind being injured when I know what dumbass thing I’ve done to cause it. When it comes flying out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, though, well, that’s cause for severe agitation in addition to the baseline level of pain. Thanks to the internet, I know the general advice is to stay off the offending foot and give it plenty of rest. That’s probably a decent enough recommendation, but there’s critters to feed and a household to run, so the actual utility of that advice is marginal at best. It’ll either ease off or it won’t. If we’re still here this time next week, it’ll probably be time for professional intervention.

2. Hearings. In the summer of 1987, Congress held televised hearings about the Iran-Contra affair that featured then Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. I remember the hearings in part because they were a daily afternoon fixture on the television as I passed regularly from the pool to the kitchen at my aunt and uncle’s house in Fairhaven, where we were visiting at the time. It’s funny the things that stick in the mind of a nine-year-old. In any case, we’re about to be treated to another round of televised Congressional hearings. This time, they’ll focus on something far more insidious than anything LtCol North dreamed up. After eighteen months, much of the nation’s attention has shifted away from the insurrection and treason that took place on and leading up to January 6th, 2021. In my heart of hearts, I hope that these hearings are a forum to both shed light on and hand down consequences for those who engaged in, supported, or passively acquiesced to the attempted violent overthrow of the legislative branch. I fear, however, that it will all be used for hour after hour of prime-time grandstanding by everyone involved.

3. People. OK, admittedly, I’ve never been a fan. With rare exceptions I’ve found that people are more trouble than their worth. Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty reliable sense for those who make the extra effort worthwhile. That sense, as was proven this week, is not foolproof. In fact, that trust in my own intuition lulled me into a sense of complacency. In that complacency, I missed warning lights that should have been wildly obvious. From any other direction, when evaluating any other person, they would have been. It’s been a good long time since I’ve so badly misjudged someone… and I’ll be bloody well sure it’s even longer before another one slips past the goalie the same way.

How they do it in San Francisco…

In San Francisco yesterday, voters recalled their elected district attorney. Chesa Boudin was elected to office in 2019. For many of us outside San Francisco his tenure as prosecutor was marked distinctly by dramatic property crimes and a sense that he was presiding over the legal machinery in a city where crime might just pay after all. 

It’s not hard, after watching video after video of smash-and-grab robberies and organized groups of shoplifters walking away with thousands of dollars’ worth of products, to understand why city residents might have lost confidence. 

Boudin is one of a number of prosecutors who came into office over the last few years by tickling every sweet spot for leftist criminal justice reformers. He promised to reduce crime by cutting the jail population, doing away with cash bail, reforming police procedures, and opting not to prosecute various “low level” violations. I guess that’s the sort of campaign promise that is well received in some circles.

What this successful recall tells me, is that people say they want to promote feel-good, soft shoe criminal justice policies. They might even be convinced that’s what they want. It seems, though, what voters really want is to feel secure in their homes, have their property protected from the criminal element, and be able to walk the streets without being accosted or wading through rivers of human excrement.

It doesn’t honestly feel like too much to ask from our elected leaders, but then again, I don’t really know how they do things in San Francisco.

Joe…

Let me say it straight from the shoulder… I’m not a big fan of Joe Biden as president. From spearheading America’s flight from Afghanistan to the current conflicted economic environment the administration is determined to cheer as rosy, while simultaneously decrying as hard times and painfully inflationary, it feels like the presidency is his in name, but that the hard work of the office remains, somehow, out of his grasp. 

I’ve never met him, but maybe he’s a nice enough old man. I’d be willing to go so far as to say he’s probably well intentioned. He might even be successful his role as head of state (à la Elizabeth II) where the main function is unveiling plaques, making proclamations, and waiving at crowds. I have to believe that even those who supported him during the election have found him wanting when exercising his awesome constitutional role as head of government. His performance when it comes to the hard stuff could, charitably, be called something between mixed and abysmal.

I’m certainly not advocating for a return to the batshit crazy administration of Donald Trump and his band of merry insurrectionists, but the fact that Joe was popularly recognized as the best available option really should concern every one of us. The best thing he could possible do would be to, as soon as the midterms are over, go on television and announce that he won’t seek a second term. I’m sure I’ll still hate the next contender’s policies, but the job deserves someone more engaged and energetic. 

Six months to bend the curve…

I managed to sneak away from the homestead the Saturday before last to do a bit of old school book shopping. It felt good to be back on the hunt through towering stacks of warehoused volumes. I knew I didn’t find anything wildly rare or collectable. That’s the trouble with buying from book people. Even those who trade at the wholesale level, despite the massive number of items on their shelves, know what they have… and have probably paid someone to cull the stock for things that shouldn’t be sold off at half of their marked price. Still, filling a basket or two at Second Story Books is among one of life’s great pleasures. Their stock is unpredictable, but I never fail to walk away with items that close gaps in my collection or that will simply be a pleasure to read.

The real shock to my bookish system came when it was time to catalog my new finds and get them loaded up onto the to be read shelves. Thanks to the requisite poking around on Goodreads and LibraryThing, I learned that I’ve fallen significantly off the pace. By the mid-point of 2020 and 2021, I’d read about 40 books. This year, I’ve notched only 25. Those were Plague Years, of course, so it’s possible I’m simply reverting to the mean now that the world has stumbled along being open for business again. In 2018 and ’19 I was reading about 60 books a year so I’m on track to get close to those numbers.

In any case, I’m feeling that I’ve inexplicably let myself get distracted and not at all happy with the meager numbers I’m putting up. The to be read stack grows far too quickly to let the number of books being read slip too far. The solution, I think, is obvious… I’m going to have to quit being a post-plague social butterfly and get back to the ease and comfort of the days of “safer at home.” I’ve got six months left to bend the curve in the right direction.

The Bathroom Report: Day 12

It’s day 12 of the master bathroom remodel.  Plumbing and electrical rough in are complete. It’s also the second full business day of no work happening because we’re waiting on the county inspector to sign off on what’s been done so far.

I’m sure building inspectors do some kind of important work, but at the moment they’re at the very top of my shit list for being the reason there hasn’t been any forward progress on this project in two and a half days. Currently there isn’t even a date specified when the fine people from the county building will grace me with their presence. 

My enthusiasm for this project is, just now, at low ebb. The notion that the government should have a vested interested in when it’s ok to go ahead and put up drywall and stary laying tile in my bathroom would feel a bit farcical if it wasn’t so damned frustrating. Paying for the privilege of being hamstrung by slow-as-Moses county inspections is made all the more insulting because I’ve had to pay for the privilege of pulling the permits in the first place.

I’m a professional practitioner of the art and science of the bureaucracy. I know there’s nothing for it but to endure the process… but don’t for a moment think that I’ll be doing it with joy in my heart. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Thrift Savings Plan. One of the non-salary benefits that makes federal employment at least nominally attractive is access to the Thrift Savings Plan, a low-fee 401(k) style defined contribution retirement plan. The TSP website has always been a little bit clunky, but with only five basic funds and five target date funds to manage, it didn’t need to be particularly complicated. And that’s where the Thrift Savings Board, the fine people who run the plan, decided to revamp everything. The transition to a new web interface and record keeping system started in May and by the 26th the process was far enough along that users were effectively locked out “until the first week of June.” Well, as predictable as it is, the rollout of these “new and improved features has proven to be absolute hot garbage. I’m one of the lucky ones that managed to set up a new log in without causing the system to crash… even though I still can’t do anything once I’ve signed on. With millions of account holders and $750 Billion under management, you might be tempted to think there would be an incentive to get this rollout right. You would, of course, have been 100% wrong. The Thrift Board and whatever contractor the picked to develop this wonder-system have delivered up a complete and total turd.

Inspection. My bathroom remodel contractor has spent the last week and a half working great guns to stay on schedule. They left around lunch time yesterday and aren’t here at all today because work is at a dead stop until the county inspector comes by to do his or her thing. That might be tomorrow. It might be next week. Per the project manager and a call to the county office, “There’s no way of knowing.” I’m sure these county inspectors are doing God’s own work, but letting bureaucracy grind a project to a stop without giving a date-certain when they’ll even bother to consider giving approval for more work to get done is infuriating on just about every level. It’s the kind of thing that leads people to decide government is the problem rather than being part of the solution.

The BBC. First off, let me say I love the BBC. They’re one of my top two or three go-to news sources and provide the lion’s share of what television I actually still watch. I use to be able to stream some limited live events from their website. Apparently, I can no longer do that, being met by a banner that says “This content is not available in your location.” By my location, I assume they mean across the waters in the United States. Hey, look, I know the Beeb has its own bills to pay. I’d be happy to sign up for a subscription or a pay a license fee or whatever. I know there are ways to circumvent all that, but I’d rather just hit an easy button, pay a few dollars, and get on with it on the up and up.

The first of June…

Way back on June 1st, 2006 I published my first blog post… on MySpace. A lot has changed in the intervening 16 years. For instance, well, MySpace doesn’t seem to be much of a thing anymore. I’ve also managed to get 16 years older, which I suppose is nice give the binary alternative. 

I’m not big on celebrating my own birthdays, but having something to say day in and day out for 16 years feels like an accomplishment worth noting. 

With 3,660 posts under the bridge, being loud and obnoxious about having an opinion is still something I enjoy the hell out of doing (most of the time). It’s not without some irony that I recognize it’s the job I’ve enjoyed most all these years and it’s also the one that’s paid me virtually nothing. It hasn’t proven to be a money maker, but relieving all this bile on a regular basis is probably the thing that has kept me a reasonable approximation of sane.

So that’s it. That’s the post. If you want to see where it all started, you can check out that very first post here.

A trip to Disney it ain’t…

The first week of June is usually the point in the year where I start taking time off in bulk. The first half of the year is for slogging through. The back half is for maximizing days not tethered to a desk or laptop. Historically, this is a week allocated for sweeping through antique and book shops ranging from Philadelphia to DC. After two years of Plague measures, 2022 was supposed to be a return to normalcy. Except, of course, that’s not how it has turned out. At least not for this week.

With a team of plumbers, carpenters, and electricians crawling around and under the house, stretching my legs like that is off the table this year. Sure, they’re bonded and insured and I’ve got cameras keeping an unblinking eye on everything, so I don’t strictly need to be here. Still, it looks like I’ll mostly be spending the week knocking around the house if only to answer random questions as they come up.

It’s not an ideal week of vacation, but after seven months of waiting to start, I certainly wasn’t going to delay further in the name of saving a cherished early summer tradition. Besides, I’ve got another tranche of time off coming up for the first week of July. This whole thing has been a bit of an exercise in delayed gratification. Why shouldn’t this be as well?

Fortunately, I’ve got a wall full of books I’ve been meaning to read and a list of odds and ends that need doing but never quite make it to the top of the list. There’s no time like the present to get after those things. Quite a few of those items got lined through today. If it all gets too tedious, I can always forgo a few vacation days, log in for telework during the tail end of the week. That feels like he worst possible option, but one never knows.

We’ll see how everything looks after a few days of just hanging out while other people stream in and out doing the heavy lifting for the week.

On movies, popcorn, and convenience…

I went to the movies this weekend. While at first blush there doesn’t feel like anything much unusual about that statement, it’s the first time I saw a movie in a theater since fall of 2019… so about two and a half years ago – in the Before Times. 

The good news is that the movie going experiences hasn’t changed much. The bad news, of course, is also that the movie going experience hasn’t changed much. The big pleather lay-z-boy style seating is a nice touch. The cost of popcorn and a Coke is still wildly overinflated. In a lot of ways it’s a bit of a time capsule to the way things used to be – something that hasn’t changed when so much else has done.

Watching Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen felt like a worthwhile reason to go back. It was exactly the flavor of 1980s nostalgia that I love. Plus, it’s every bit as good as (if not better, in some ways, than) the original. I guess you can do that when you’re not in a rush to turn out three or four sequels in as many years. In this case, 30+ years was not too long to wait.

Maybe the great and surprising disappointment was the popcorn. It was decidedly “flat.” That’s probably more my fault than Regal’s. I spent the two years of the Great Plague dialing in theater-style popcorn to exactly suit my taste. I’ve got it just about perfected now and as it turns out, my own concoction trumps the original inspiration rather than matching it exactly. I won’t claim to be too brokenhearted about that.

The other thing I learned from a two-year absence from the theater, is I really like being able to pause the film. I like being able to take a bathroom break, grab a refill, or top off the popcorn with a fresh batch without missing any of the story. The screen at home isn’t nearly as big, but the ease and convenience are hard to beat. I suspect that from here on out, seeing a movie in a building specifically designed for that activity is going to be reserved for those films that unabashedly take advantage of the full size of the screen. For everything else, the perks of watching from the comforts of my own living room outweigh whatever the theater provides.