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. 

7000 degrees…

I just cranked the thermostat down to 65 because it’s approximately 7000 degrees outside and I’ve got a heating pad wrapped around my neck because direct heat is the only thing so far that buys me a few minutes every hour of being able to move my head like a normal person.

So that’s how the week off is going in case anyone was curious.

What I learned this week…

After getting my first job out of college I moved into a tiny apartment with a rattling old window air conditioner that I would only turn on at night (because electricity is hella expensive) to change the room from furnace to obnoxiously hot. I could sleep fitfully under those conditions… and some sleep was better than the none that I’d have had otherwise.

It was sweating through those late summer nights at the southern tip of southern Maryland that I vowed, with God as my witness, that when I’d “made it,” I would set the temperature in my home for comfort rather than economy.

For me, the ideal indoor temperature in both summer and winter hovers right around 67-68 degrees. When I’m home, that’s where I set it and let the furnace or a/c do it’s thing.

Here I am now, almost twenty years later, having officially “made it” by my 22-year old self’s definition. Living the fully controlled indoor air temperature dream…

So, the whole point of this post: What I learned this week is that I’ll tolerate the house being 1-2 degrees colder than the optimal 68 degrees if I’m wearing wool socks. I feel like that’s something I probably should have known years ago. Better late than never, or something.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Air conditioning. If reports out of central Maryland are to be believed, we are now living in the midst of the worst rash of human rights violations in the history of the state. I wish I’d have known back in the 80s and 90s that air conditioning in schools was a civil right. It turns out mine were violated regularly between about 1989 and 1996 when I and my classmates were forced to endure education without the benefit of air conditioning with only the comforting whir of dozens of box fans stirring the broiling air inside our classrooms. Since these long-dormant childhood injuries have now been pulled to the surface by an insensitive media establishment, I’m left wondering which state office we need to file with to receive our settlement for emotional trauma and discomfort?

2. Cowardice. Courage isn’t hiding behind a brick wall of anonymity saying mean things for fun and profit while trying to make sure you don’t lose your job. If you’re a member of the administration, outraged by it’s behavior and feel that you have no recourse but to speak out against it, the only legitimate option available to you is to resign your position. Then you are free to speak out and avail yourself of every other opportunity afforded to you. When I have an opinion, unpopular or not, I post it here and make sure my name is one it. To make your stand anonymously from a position of safety protected from public scrutiny isn’t an act of bravery, but a self-serving act of personal cowardice.

3. Thursday dinner. I loath and dispise needing to cook a full meal when I get home from work. Mostly I solve that problem by over-making Sunday dinner and crock-potting something on Monday. Juicy leftover goodness is the dispensed for lunch and dinner for the next three days. By Thursday, though, the options box starts looking a little bare… and by a little bare, I mean selecting between frozen burritos, Spaghettio’s, or a tasty bowl of Corn Flakes. Sure, I could order up something for delivery, but that involves someone coming to the house, so it’s a less desirable option. I could, of course, give in, and prepare an actual meal. That option, too, feels unlikely. If it’s Thursday and you’re reading this, chances are Corn Flakes has ended up being what’s for dinner.

What Willis was talking ’bout…

I’m going to take an entire day’s post today to celebrate the often unsung genius of Willis Carrier, the man responsible for bringing us modern electrical air conditioning. Sure, those first air conditioners contained all manner to toxic gasses that destroyed the ozone layer and would occasionally burst into flame, but right up until they suffocated or burned to death, people were comfortable. And in the end, being a relatively short lived animal, personal comfort is going to trump the risk of environmental destruction or immolation just about every time.

So, as I nudge the thermostat down a notch or two to compensate for the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows I tip my hat to Mr. Carrier… and wonder how, after our sainted ancestors spent their first summer in the mid-Atlantic, they didn’t immediately board the Nina, the Pinta, and the Get-Me-the-Hell-Outta-Here and set sail for Canada.


Before ensconcing myself here at Fortress Jeff, I rented a house that “included” air conditioning in the form of two geriatric window units. One was so filled with mold when I moved in that I relegated it to the shed for the duration of my stay and replaced it with my own unit. The other was probably filled with mold too, but it was too heavy to move and was somehow “permanently” mounted into one of the living room windows. That one got blitzed with as much lysol as I could spray into the vents at least twice a week in the hopes that would be enough to hold any organisms growing in there at bay.

Given the apparent belief of early 1980s home builders that insulation was more of an optional thing, living with these two window units mostly translated into having two rooms that were slightly cooler than the outside air temperature and the rest of the house that was just short of reaching blast furnace range. It wasn’t ideal.

With temperatures reaching towards 90 over the last couple of days, I just wanted to give a small nod of acknowledgment to the glory that is central air conditioning. I try to be responsible in its use, but I can chill this place right down to icebox levels with the flick of a switch. It’s the kind of thing you don’t really appreciate until you no longer have it.

So there you have it – one more thing to add to the short list of things that don’t suck. See? Not everything around here is a bad news story, something that annoys me, or just a general bitch session. There are, from time to time, things that make me smile.

Catching up…

In addition to the 185 work-related emails yesterday, one of the hardest parts of being away is that I fell way, way behind on my blog reading last week. As much as I like to think of blogging as a solitary activity, the reality is that that the community of bloggers is surprisingly interactive. Instead of just a spectator sport, you end up in a round robin of reading, commenting, responding, and repeating. If you follow a dozen blogs and even half of them post every day, after a week you end up with a backlog of something close to literary tonnage. Now that the daily routine is getting back to a semblance of normalcy, I’m wading into the backlog. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that I like to read, because this is going to take a while.

I find summer in general to be the hardest time for a person who wants to spend time reading and writing. Writing in winter is easy – it’s dark by 5PM, it’s cold, and you just don’t feel like you’re missing much while you’re up to your earlobes in words. Summer is a different story, for me at least. It always feels like there is more to do – and those competing interests seem to win out at least as often as they lose. Maybe that’ll change now that we’re reaching the time of the season when hiding out in the cool embrace of the air conditioner is the order of the day.

I’ll catch up on my backlog soon enough… now if I can just shoehorn some quality time for writing back into the schedule, all will be right with the world.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Pandemonium. Despite the common perception, I’m a quiet guy. I enjoy reading. I enjoy writing. I generally enjoy activities that limit the amount of social interaction that are really required of me, though with some effort, I can make a good showing when I do need to make nice with a crowd. If you ever want to really throw me off my game, all you really need to do is drive up the noise level in the room and my nerves will start fraying on command. My blood pressure will spike and I’ll end up using most of my available focus to simply avoid biting someone’s head off. It’s not a recipe for great productivity. Maybe I really should have looked into career opportunities as a research librarian or lighthouse keeper if the whole writing thing doesn’t take off. That or possibly move my desk into an anechoic chamber.

2. Air conditioning. I’ve been known to keep it cold in the house. I’ve been known to keep it cold in the truck. What I don’t do is keep it so cold in either of those places that I need to wear gloves and a coat while I’m inside either of them. I mean it’s fun to have to stop every few minutes to keep your fingers from stiffening up and making typing damned near impossible, but it seems to me that maybe the best course of action would be to moderate the indoor air temperature a bit rather than setting it to arctic and throwing the blowers on full blast. I’m not a fancy big city engineer or HVAC specialist, but it seems to me that there are some settings on the dial between Ice Age and Sahara that someone might want to test out.

3. False advertising. Walking into a supermarket and you can usually expect to come out with groceries. Walk into Best Buy and you can usually expect to walk out with electronics. Walk into a bar and you can usually buy beer. If you think you can walk into a shop advertising out front that ‘We Sell Silver” and walk out with silver however, you would be wrong. Apparently what they meant by that sign was “We Buy Silver.” Clearly the meaning of “buy” and “sell” have been lost somewhere in translation.

What Annoys Jeff this Week: Household Addition

1. Wood floors. I use to think wood floors were the bee’s knees. If I did’t have dogs, I probably still would. No matter how many times, I sweep, vacuum, and mop there’s always enough hair coming up to build my own pug. God help me, when the sun slants through the windows just right it looks like the floor has never even seen a broom. Until I lived with wood floors, I had no idea how much filth wall-to-wall carpet hid. Ignorance is bliss. I miss that.

2. Window air conditioners. Window air conditioners are loud, dirty, and don’t work particularly well. I have two of them, which means I have two rooms that are sort of cool-ish and the rest of the house which is basically uninhabitable most of the time. Don’t get me started on the bigs, dist, and occasional black mold the damned things seem to breed. Central air is officially a must have in my next place. Failing that, I’m moving to Northern Maine where the subject of air conditioning is purely academic.

3. Green algae. Two sides of the fabulous Rental Casa de Jeff never get direct sunlight and as a result the siding on those sides seems to have sprung fourth with a remarkably aggressive colony of green algae. It looks God awful, but since you can’t see it from the road, it’s mostly my own private shame. It feels like something I should attack with gallons of bleach and a pressure washer. At present, though, it’s not quite annoying enough to make dragging a pressure washer up a ladder seem like a good idea.

Proportional motivation…

If the last two days are any indication of how the rest of the warm months are going to go, it’s seems like it could be a very long summer. I have a working hypothesis that my level of motivation is directly proportional to the temperature. The further the temperature climbs past 70, the further my motivation to do anything indoors seems to suffer. Of course it doesn’t help that the thermostat in the office seems to be stuck on 80 degrees. Productivity after lunch? Forget it. Between the heat in the building and a full stomach, just managing to stay awake feels a bit like a full time job.

Eventually, I’m sure they’ll get around to switching over to air conditioning in this wonderful new billion dollar building. In the meantime it’s not fit for men nor beasts. If I seem more surly that usual, at least you’ll know why.