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. 

The last project of 2022 (probably)…

I started 2022 with a long list of projects that needed doing. Some were minor and I managed to knock them off one by one as the months crept past. Others – some electrical work, replacing the well filters, the gut and redo on my bathroom, and maintenance on the exterior trim work – were all things I opted to farm out to more competent hands.

The painters, at long last, were here yesterday. It wasn’t a particularly big project, but it involved a level of detailed effort and agility atop a ladder that I’m decidedly not able to deliver. Still, it was badly in need of doing. All the front windows needed recalked, the steel lentils above each window and the garage doors needed to be scraped, primed, and repainted, a deeply weathered wooden door frame needed a bit of patching and a fresh coat of paint, and lastly the iron pipe that keeps the generator fueled was beginning to wear through its original battleship gray.

I’m working from the assumption that all of those bits, except for the last one, probably haven’t been looked after since the house was built in 2000. The previous owners gave it good bones, but as they aged, it was obvious basic maintenance was let go. I’m told that’s something that tends to happen with older home owners. God preserve me from living through such a fate.

I’ve slowly worked through taking the multitude of deferred maintenance problems in hand. It was an impressively long list that included fixing the entire drainage scheme for the back yard, bricking up an undrained window well, replacing the furnace, clearing the shrubbery that at one time grew in the gutters, and a whole host of other smaller efforts. It’s taken the better part of eight years, but I’m pretty much done with the things that were on my original list. 

Aside from keeping up with the preventative maintenance now that it’s caught up, there’s the large and growing list of new projects that I want to take on. The air conditioning condenser unit is 22 years old. The carpet in the master bedroom and sunroom is warn and approaching tatty. The kitchen could use a bit of a refresh. Before long the roof will reach the end of its service life. Those are just the known projects. Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns are always lurking out there waiting to spring a surprise bit of home repair on me when they’re least expected or wanted.

I haven’t formally decided what’s next. If I can keep the air conditioner blowing through one more season, I’d like to take on some worrisome limbs that overhang the house and trees that have grown a bit too close. That’s probably the top of my wish list for 2023. Well, that, or really getting someone in here who can diagnose why my gutters suck and giving me a plan to fix them once and for all. 

As it turns out, the vast array of projects as a homeowner never actually ends, you just decide at some point to take a break. That’s absolutely where I am now.

It’s all been done…

The Emmys were handed out last night. My relationship with awards shows is indifferent a best, so the only reason I happen to know this is because the fact is nearly impossible to miss online this morning.

All the shows that won have precisely one thing in common – I’ve never watched any of them. In fact, of all the shows nominated across every category, I’ve seen at least one episode of two of them; Better Call Saul in its first season and Saturday Night Live sometime in excess of two decades ago. 

I can’t exactly put my finger on when I stopped being interested in current pop culture, but here we are. I can’t remember what the last fresh new show I sat down to watch is. I discount House of the Dragon, since it’s set in a universe I’ve already been in for 10 years. For the most part, I’m happy enough re-watching any of 20 or 30 favorite shows or leaving the television parked on Sky News or BBC and a combination of the History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, and Animal Planet. I don’t expect I’ll get exposure to any of the cool new dramas or comedies there. I’m ok with that.

Aside from an occasional obsession with new technology, I’ve never been the guy who was all that interested in keeping up. Give me the tried and comfortable any day. Besides, from what little I’ve seen of smart new television, we’ve run out of new stories to tell because it’s all been done before. 

The road not taken…

Early this morning I watched the House of Lords and the House of Commons presenting their condolences to King Charles III. Later I watched the solemn pomp and ceremony that carried the mortal remains of Queen Elizabeth II from Holyroodhouse to St. Giles.

I’m struck, more than anything else, with a sense of regret – of the road not taken. When the American colonies careened towards independence in the 1760s and ’70s, there was something greater in our grasp. With negotiation, we could have had American Members of Parliament, American Peers, and unity of the English speaking peoples throughout an Imperial Commonwealth. In the fullness of time, I like to speculate that America could have emerged as a center of gravity to rival the mother country within the Empire. 

But we didn’t. A few men in Boston didn’t want to pay three pence a pound on their tea. The rabble roused, a minority of the population set us off inexorably on the road to independence.  More fool us.

We say Americans have no interest in royalty. Our rapt attention during their great occasions – their births, weddings, and now their funerals – says differently. We’re still very much invested in ebbs and flows of the family of King George III. 

We could have been part of that great stream of history stretching back beyond the Conqueror, beyond Alfred, but here we are, simple spectators despite our ongoing and profound interest. I’m not advocating we turn back the clock. That particular ship has, sadly, sailed. But, God did we miss an opportunity.

Finally filtered…

After weeks of screwing around with companies that apparently weren’t interested in doing business, the large regional plumbing operation I hired last week to put in the new well filter arrived as scheduled this afternoon and did, in fact, install the spin down filter I ordered. After testing, the consensus was that the only thing that needed taken out of the water here was the fine sand that’s endemic to wells in this area. Blame that on having built the homestead here high atop ancient sand and sediment washed down the primordial Susquehanna River when the last glaciers retreated and helped form the Eastern Shore and Chesapeake Bay.

Since they were here and had some time to kill, the two guys doing all the work also drained off the water heater, which has been a settling pond for sand laden water for the last two months. There was some add on fee for that, of course, but given how much sand has been caught in my poor simple Brita filter, getting most of that mess away from the heating element feels like money well spent. As they say, preventative maintenance is almost always more cost effective than emergency maintenance.

My new favorite plumbers weren’t the cheapest by a long shot. From start to finish they answered the phone when I called, arrived when they were scheduled, and did the work they said they were going to do. If that’s not service worth paying for, I guess I don’t know what is.

At the very least, it’s one more thing off my long and growing list of things that need doing around here. My fingers are firmly crossed in hopes this is the start of a trend.

Damned glitchy algorithm. 

As a rule, I find the Twitter algorithm much more entertaining than the one Facebook uses. Twitter tends to feed me a steady diet of people who talk about dogs, UK politics, the age of fighting sail, archeology, military affairs, book collecting, egirls, and the occasional American politician. It’s more or less balanced based on my interests.

Every couple of months, though, I somehow land in environmentalist crackpot twitter. My most recent territory was getting twisted up with Twitter’s urban planners who were demanding that everyone must live in densely built walkable communities.

I’d like to encourage that group to piss directly off. Not everyone wants or needs to live in dense, urban housing – walkable or otherwise. I’ve spent my life specifically avoiding living under those conditions. I have no idea why it’s so hard for urbanites to understand that not everyone is interested in living asshole to elbow with their neighbor, stacked 47 floors deep, just for the pleasure of having a bakery or bodega a block over. I worked my ass off to make sure there was plenty of space between me and the next guy. In fact, I suspect my current space allocation isn’t nearly enough and the next time around I’ll focus on less house and more land.

I’d be hard pressed to think of a single argument the urban planning true believers on Twitter could make that would lead me in a different direction. That won’t stop that oddball little corner of twitter from being filled by people who think they have the One True Way and the rest of us should just live in accordance with their pronouncements of the higher good.

I obviously need to find a way to get Twitter to stop feeding me this nonsense, as I’d much rather focus on the nonsense that actually interests me instead of rabbit holing me into things just guaranteed to elevate my blood pressure. Damned glitchy algorithm. 

It’s one or the other…

The last month or so has felt like a street fight between dragging the bathroom renovation across the finish line, attempting to schedule some other service appointments, keeping up with a few medical appointments for me and the critters, and generally trying to keep the household running. It feels a bit like we hit a breakthrough this week. Even if there wasn’t much that ended up in the “done” pile, there was forward motion on a wide front 

September is still shaping up to be a hectic couple of weeks with various home repairs, doctor’s appointments, long deferred training classes, occasionally putting in a full day of work, and taking care of everything else that needs doing week in and week out. It’s busy, but for the first time in a month or two everything doesn’t feel like a bloody fistfight for every inch of progress.

There’s a very small number of activities for which I’ll claim any special skill. Whatever I manage to get done, I’ll generally attribute more to dogged determination than raw talent. Having said that, I’m cautiously optimistic that September is ushering in a season where I’ll start seeing the payoff for a couple of months of repeatedly flinging myself against the same brick walls. 

It’s either that or every damned thing is about to fly uncontrollably off the rails. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. 

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.

The problem with shopping small…

Social media is full of posts about how we all need to carry our commerce out with small businesses, that they’re very important, and that they support the local community. All those things are possibly true, but at the same time I’ve been doing my level best to hire various small, local plumbing outfits for a job for the last six weeks. Some don’t pick up their phone. Others don’t return calls once they’ve talked to you or just don’t show up when they’re scheduled. One even when so far as drawing up the plans and then disappeared. 

By comparison, I called one of the big regional plumbing operations at 9:00 this morning and at approximately 10:45 I had in my hand three separate proposed set ups, had made a selection, confirmed the parts order, and scheduled the installation time for next week.

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t support small business. Where you spend your money is a deeply personal decision. That said, I’m absolutely finished bending over backwards and practically begging them to take my money. If getting a decent level of service means dealing strictly with the big players – and paying the corresponding premium – that’s what it’s going to have to be from here on out.

My apologies to small business owners out there, who I’m sure work very hard, but honestly getting quality work done in a timely manner is far more important to me than either where the guy who owns the company lives or getting the rock bottom price. That won’t win me any friends from the Main Street Business Association, but I’m over here trying to run a household. I have neither the time not inclination to go on playing championship phone tag with companies that don’t seem to want to be bothered.