An environmentalist…

A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the first of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.

In my own way, I’m an environmentalist. I’m not the kind of wackadoodle hippy that ties himself to the high branches of a tree to stop logging or only eats soy because cows fart too much. Still, I believe one of the greatest dangers facing the world today is the almost eight billion of us extracting resources from the planet at an unprecedented rate.

I enjoy nature so much that one of the key points in picking the house I currently live in wasn’t just the structure, but its location adjacent to protected state owned and conservation easement land as well as that the neighborhood covenants and restrictions placing strict limits on the amount of the “natural woodland” on each lot that can be removed for development. I lived in one of those clear cut subdivisions with nothing by lawn and pavement as far as the eye could see once and never will again. 

None of the above is probably controversial, but here’s where I’m going to lose my Republican friends: In addition to generally enjoying the outdoors, I believe global climate change is an existential threat to civilization. 

Like any other large problem we’ve ever faced, the fact is, we can fix this. The catch is, of course, it means that many things have to change – not the least of which is transitioning away from using fossil fuels. Those systems were built up over two centuries and (to agitate my environmentalist friends) I don’t expect we can reasonably expect to simply turn them off over two years or even twenty. The sooner we start implementing real solutions to mitigate climate change the better off we’re going to be – if only because the longer we wait to take it seriously, the larger will be the cost and greater the drag on the economy.

Getting a grip on climate change isn’t just for the benefit of people. If it were, I’d probably shrug it away, because people are the cause I’m least inclined to get behind. I mean have you met people? We’re collectively awful. If I’m inappropriately honest, I’m far more troubled by the impact of our continued behavior on the whales and the fishes and the turtles and the apes and the polar bears and the big cats and the birds and the whole host of small mammals whose habitat we’re systematically destroying, cutting up, and constricting. I’ll take my chances with a mass die off of people, but the animals never did anything to us.

I’m not optimistic that there’s the political or social will to get our arms around the sheer volume of things that need fixing. The more likely course of events in my mind is that the climate will continue to shift and at least some of us will find ourselves living in a world that’s much more violent, far less productive, and considerably less populated by creatures great and small.

Three word mantras…

If I’m honest, finding something relevant to drop here every day is getting to feel a bit like swimming against the tide. Sure, I’ve got opinions about damned near everything, but I’m not a foreign policy expert. I’m not an Eastern Europe expert. I’m not an economist. Even though I studied political science, most days I even struggle to get my arms around what American domestic politics has turned into in this stupid century of ours. The way I learned to understand the world is often enough no longer the case or impolite to say out loud.

The best I can manage is trying to take in information from people who are experts in a wide array of fields and try to filter those through my own philosophical and, yes, ethical, lens. I like to think I hit more right notes than not, but the only real way of telling will be looking back here in 20 or 30 years and seeing how it all turned out.

All I feel particularly competent to guarantee at this point is that I intend to keep grappling with events in a legitimate effort to understand the world around me. Here, if nowhere else, it will never devolve into grand over-simplifications like “Orange man bad,” or “Let’s go Brandon.” The world is entirely too complex to be distilled down into three word mantras. I’ll call the balls and strikes as I see them based on as much intelligent commentary and information as I can get my hands on at the time.

Roundup…

Do you even have a website if you don’t do a year end roundup?

2021 was my best year yet here at WordPress. I exceeded every measurable metric from last year, which was the previous record setter. Not bad for a poky little blog that doesn’t do any advertising, doesn’t have any particular focus or built in fan base, and doesn’t offer any tips or tricks for making anyone’s life any better.

The whole thing exists entirely as a method of saying whatever happens to be on my mind at day’s end. I’m consistently amazed that anyone chooses to follow along with the level of nonsense that shows up here.

Starting next Monday I’ll be back to my regular weekday posting schedule. Whatever fuckery happens in 2022, you probably won’t hear about it here first, but you’ll definitely hear about it eventually. If it’s not good times, I can only assume it’ll be interesting.

I won’t jinx anyone by wishing them a happy new year. Good luck out there.

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.

The next long weekend…

I started the latest in my ongoing series of very long weekends at 4:00 this afternoon. My out of office message is set, my laptop is packed away, and I won’t be sparing another thought about COVID, or briefings for industry, or taskers for the next five days. It’s a decidedly good feeling. 

I have no real plans to speak of. I’m sure there will be a bit of junking and book hunting in the mix, but for tonight there’s nothing that even passes for a plan. I’ll be going as close as I ever do to playing it by ear. I’m not sure my version would pass as anyone else’s idea of spontaneity, but I’m ok with it.

I usually try to keep the blog schedule moving along without interruption during these vacation days, but as always, for the next few days I’m reserving the right not to sit down at the computer unless I’m really feeling a strong bit of motivation. I really have no idea whether I’ll be posting for the rest of the week or not. It’s a total coin toss.

Not to worry, of course. Even if I’m quiet here for a few days, there’s not much chance at all of me shutting up on Facebook or Twitter, so you can always treat yourself to a micro-rant elsewhere on your preferred social media platform.

Writing. It’s hard work…

Wow. OK. So, the idea of a series of posts codifying what I believe is already off to a rough start. Maybe I tried to lead off a little too aggressively with thoughts on climate change. What was supposed to be tonight’s feature blog post is currently a 2 page ramble on everything from fossil fuels to hunting. I probably should have started off on something a little less all encompassing than the idea of “the environment,” but here we are.


That post is going to take a level of editorial exertion that doesn’t usually show its face here. Honestly it’s probably going to need to be split into about three separate posts in order to make any sense of it at all. Usually it’s a matter of jamming a few thoughts onto the page, running spell check, do a quick read through, and hope I’ve caught the worst of it before letting something go live. This one, though, is in nothing even close to “ready for prime time.” 


It turns out really digging into what you believe and spelling it out in a way that’s reasonably articulate is surprisingly hard to do.
If you’re looking for a preview though, here’s the takeaway: The environment is going to be the most important issue in the 21st century. Through a combination of ignorance, willful disregard, and simple inertia, we’re collectively destroying it. We’re extracting resources at a rate inconsistent with both long term economic growth and continued life on this planet for tens of thousands of species – including our own. Human beings have overcome every challenge that’s ever been placed in front of us. We need to find a way to stop destroying the natural world and the sooner it happens the less awful it will be.

It’s the challenge for our time.

Four hundred eighty one…

As I was fiddling around with last night’s post, I did some tangentially related digging in the archive. I was somewhat absentmindedly thinking about the overall premise for Thursday night’s regular edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week and how out of character it would be to have simply one thing standing on its own. That, inevitably, sent me scurrying down my own internet rabbit hole.

I’ve always thought of WAJTH as a static item. A blast of three very short form topics showing up each and every Thursday nearly without fail. That it consistently shows up on Thursday is true enough, but for the rest, well, memory isn’t always the best guide to what actually happened in the past.

As it turns out, over the last 481 weeks – yes, that’s nine and one quarter years of being annoyed – WAJTW has apparently evolved. The first post, way back on September 1st, 2011 covered four topics. After that, for almost a year, posts swung between four and five topics. It wasn’t until August 2012 that I seem to have adopted the standard three topic format that has dominated Thursdays ever since. Maybe it took me that long to figure out how to condense the week into the three most annoying – or at least the three most easily set to print – things that happened.

I’ve been filling up pages of this blog for so long now, that it’s easy to forget that there really is an evolution of style over time. Looking back at some of those early editions of WAJTW, I like to think I’ve made some stylistic improvements in how I get my points across. Even if they are better written, I was a little impressed with how many of the topics from those first few weeks are still things that annoy the hell out of me on a regular basis. Some things, it turns out, really are eternal.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Assessments. I made the mistake of opening my property tax assessment on Sunday morning. I was having a perfectly nice day up until that point. Look, I mean it’s great that the county thinks I’ve picked up that much equity over the last three years, but that in no way means I’m happy about throwing more money to the Cecil County executive and council to piss away buying up even more land for regional parks that seem to be accessioned specifically to provide a place for people to go overdose. 

2. The new normal. I’m looking forward to getting started on the Biden presidency and the conclusion of the Trump impeachment trial. I, for one, am sick and tired of finding myself siding with things members of the Democratic Party are saying and look forward to getting back to opposing 60-70 % of their policy agenda. I’m tired of living in a world turned upside down.

3. Stats. If this week has taught me anything, it’s that my blog readers either a) don’t want to read about insurrection, politics, and all that or b) the zone is so flooded with posts that things aren’t getting through. Views are more than 50% off where I’d expect them to be in a normal week. This, of course, has been anything but a normal week. I’m going to keep doing what I do, even if it’s just me shouting into the void.

Some other beginnings end…

I’ve got nothing special tonight. I wish I did. The arrival of the last workday of the year is always big news around here. It’s the highlight of my anti-social season.

Coming through the door tonight, I heaved a mighty sigh of relief and it feels almost like my brain is in the process of purging a year’s worth of everything. That’s not a bad feeling, but it doesn’t lend itself to even mediocre writing. I’m not sure it lends itself to anything beyond a quiet night with a good drink.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound awful in any way.

Happy end of the work year.

Inner peace makes for dull blogging…

It’s the middle of the week, a federal holiday buried between vacation days, pouring down rain, and about a gloomy a day as you could find. Businesses are starting to close up and people are beginning to revisit the days of “safer at home” as the Great Plague surges around us. I’ve largely tuned out the 2020 presidential campaign, which I consider over, done with, and not to be gotten back to until closer to the inauguration (aside from occasionally flinging rocks at both sides via Facebook or Twitter).

Put another way, there’s absolutely nothing that I feel a compulsion to talk about today. I’ve taken great pains to make the house a perfectly comfortable retreat from the world. I’m not sure the dogs and I could hold off a Spetsnaz assault team, but for keeping to ourselves through the pandemic whether it lasts a few months or another year, we’re reasonably well set to minimize how much time we need to spend dealing with the world “out there.” 

The days, especially when untroubled by even needing to telework, do tend to blend together a bit though. If it weren’t for knowing yesterday’s vet appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, today would be more or less indistinguishable from Saturday or Monday or the day after tomorrow. I’m a dedicated creature of habit and it doesn’t particularly bother me in any way… but it does make fishing for new topics just a little problematic, which is how you end up with a stream of consciousness mess something like this one.

Fortunately, I can already predict that things will be back to normal tomorrow and you’ll get a full boat of What Annoys Jeff this Week. Some things don’t stop, regardless of how peaceful and docile the week seems. I should probably be thankful for that.