Lessons on a snowy day…

Yesterday wasn’t the first snowy day I’ve had here on the homestead. Compared to last winter’s big storm, this one hardly rated a blip, except for the part where the last half of the storm turned to ice. It’s pretty to look at, makes for some interesting watching the dogs try to find traction, and cuts down trees and utility poles like nobody’s business. It’s that last bit that served to set the stage for the most important of the day’s lessons.

I’ve always known my AT&T wireless signal at home was spotty at best. Since I don’t make all that often, this fact was largely hidden by my home Wi-Fi picking up the slack for data purposes. It’s a system that works well enough under normal operating conditions. With Comcast having gone MIA due to any number of local lines being down, operating conditions yesterday were less than ideal. By “less than,” I mean that my fancy new iPhone was utterly and completely useless as a means of communicating for almost the entire duration of the cable outage.

Also learned yesterday was the fact that every penny I spent installing and maintaining my generator was money well spent. Twenty seconds after the lines came down, it roared to life and kept the furnace blower blowing, the well and sump pumps pumping, the dryer drying, and the lights lit. I cooked a normal dinner and settled in to watch The Hunt for Red October and then Master and Commander… while occasionally seeing candles dot the windows of the house across the street. It kept right on chugging through 18 hours without a moment’s complaint. With that I am well satisfied.

Aside from a few other minor details, yesterday’s experience was one up and one down. Over the next few weeks, I know I need to beef up my communications capability. That’s good info to have before I find myself in a position of really needing it. Once the ice melts off and I get a decent day, I also owe the generator an oil change and a pat on the proverbial head.

Seven Plus…

Since my order on launch day didn’t entitle me to a “first day of availability” delivery of the iPhone 7 Plus, I exercised one of my lesser developed qualities and sat patiently until it was available for walk in sales. If I can’t get my hands on it right out of the gate, having it delivered to the house weeks later and then getting hit with the additional 6% State of Maryland premium was mostly a case on injury and insult. I didn’t anticipate that was going to take three months, but at long last my patience has been rewarded with a shiny new toy from the wizards in Cupertino (picked up tax free thanks to the fine people of Delaware).

I don’t have any assessment of it yet and in any case anything I find will have already been covered to death by the tech world. Suffice to say that it is small and thiner and from an initial test the camera is probably better than any stand alone camera I ever owned. I’m looking forward to taking this little number out for a test drive… just as soon as all the apps finish downloading.

Logic…

I like keeping my phone on a belt clip. It’s geeky and will never be a fashion-correct approach, but it’s convenient and that trumps either of those other considerations. I’m also finicky about the clip and case combination I use. It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I like things precisely the way I like them… and pretty much no other way. This past weekend, the clip caught on something and broke so I’ve been attempting to make due sans clip for the time being. That’s not going particularly well given the combination of pen knife, keys, and other random ephemera that ends up in my pockets.

Having dropped my phone more in the last four days than I’ve dropped any phone over the last four years, I’m forced to concede a change is in order. There’s a method to my madness, of course. Things here seldom happen without there being some underlying logic to them. Even if it’s logic that only makes sense between my own ears.

In a herculean fit of warped reasoning, it occurred to me that spending $30 on a clip to fit a phone I’m due to replace any time now is kind of like putting new tires on a car you’re about to trade in. In my mind, addled as it is by years of accounting for money in those special ways that only Uncle Sam can fathom, the more logical thing to do was to go ahead and buy a new phone and a new clip now instead of waiting another month or two. Let that percolate for a moment if you will. Somewhere in my head it sounded perfectly reasonable to spend $900 on a new phone and then $60 on a new case and clip than it did to spent $30 for a replacement clip to keep the old phone in operation a bit longer.

If anyone wants to know the exact date and time I realized I’ve spent too long working for the government it was Saturday, November 19th, 2016 around 2PM… When I decided spending $960 to save $30 somehow made sense. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed for the time being… though I still don’t have an acceptable or convenient way to keep my phone tethered to me at all times so the whole experience has been decidedly unsatisfying for all involved.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

The One Network that Rules Them All. When I got back to the office on Monday my computer didn’t work. Well, it worked, but the network didn’t. After 30 hours we stretched a Ethernet cable halfway to Baltimore so I could at least check email, but so far the official response has been “we have a help ticket in.” If you want an employee to be productive it feels like the minimum they should do is make sure you have basic office equipment that works. But alas, that seems to be a bridge too far.

National security. Apparently the cell phone storage area at the office presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. The solution to this was to move the unlocked cabinet that contains 20-30 personally owned cell phones at any given time out into an open hallway. Perhaps we have served national security, but it feels like all we’ve really done is encourage property theft in the process. Call me crazy, but leaving an $800 phone unsecured in a building where people steal pie from the fridge feels just a little bit stupid. Net result, instead of being able to check my phone periodically during the day when I’m on my way to to meetings or go take a whiz, I’ll now be adopting a smoker’s schedule and schlepping out to my car once an hour. If only there were an easier way to be compliant and not try to pretend your employees live in 1983. Sigh.

Blaming others for bad personal decisions. Two douchebags were cornered in a cheap motel room by the police earlier this week in my adopted home town. Then they decided that being on the run from felony charges in another state wasn’t the only bad decision they wanted to make. One after another they raised their very realistic looking BB guns and very quickly paid the price for that level of stupidity. There are a couple of lessons here: 1) If you’re planning on making a last stand, try to have something with a bit more kick than a kid’s toy and 2) If you’re wanted on a felony warrant and the tactical unit shows up, all of your options from that point forward are bad for you… but some are worse than others. Now to the people who say it should have been ended peacefully, that they should have starved them out, all I can say that the only people to blame for these deaths are the ones that ended up getting killed. They committed a violent crime, they fled the jurisdiction, and when the police caught up with them they threatened the officers. I’m sure they were someone’s son and daughter, after all someone loves even the most useless of human beings, but as for me, well, sometimes I think it’s nice when the gene pool cleans itself a bit.

Go ahead, ask me…

After a couple of weeks of relearning how to spend most of the day without a cell phone, I can say that it’s at best, unpleasant. I’ve made a few necessary adjustments to my personal workflows that have made the circumstance a bit less onerous, but I’m afraid there is just no good substitute for having my digital life at my fingertips at all times. Technically I guess I could go back to the dark ages and start carrying around a paper planner all day, but at that point why not just switch back to stone tablets and chisels? At least I’ve managed a few work around that keep me mostly connected during the day. They’re not seamlessly integrating my life, but they’re at letting me limp along, which I suppose is better than nothing. Just barely.

The real issue I’ve run into after becoming essentially phoneless for large chunks of the day is that I’m losing track of the myriad of notes and reminders I’d regularly send myself throughout the day. Outlook does a good enough job of keeping me on track with most official functions, but I’m feeling the absence of emails to remind me to look at one particular memo or stop for milk on the way home. I’m really missing the ready place to keep track of the copious number of ideas that passed the “I should write about this” test and made it onto my running list of possible blog topics. So it turns out the next step in the process of learning to live with traumatic loss is to come up with some kind of system of recording notes and ideas that doesn’t depend entirely on me seeing the right post it note three minutes before I’m going to need it.

Go ahead and ask me how much I enjoy creating solutions to problems that really have no need to exist at all in the 21st century.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Selling online. There are a few pieces of lawn equipment and other odds and ends I don’t have use of anymore. For ease of listing and in hopes of not dealing with too many crackpots, I opted to post them on the local neighborhood website instead of Craigslist. In retrospect I would have been far better off just loading everything in the truck and hauling it over to the dump. I know I’ve spent at least $150 worth of time answering questions about a $25 item. Lesson learned. From here on out I’ll just throw stuff away. It’s not worth the aggravation for so little return on investment.

2. Walking and talking. If you’re on your phone and wander into the street without paying the least bit of attention I should be within my rights to hit you with the truck. I’m not talking about flattening anyone, but it feels like giving these dipshits a glancing blow with the side mirror should be accepted if not encouraged.

3. Connectivity. Having access to email and the Internet are pretty much my only real job enablers. I’m sure I could do at least some of the work without those tools, but everything would take days longer than it should. Some of it I can get done by phone but the “must have a signature” stuff not so much. If you’re a knowledge worker access to a function network isn’t a convenience or a perk, it’s a necessity. If you the employer can’t provide that then you’d best not look at me cross eyed when I start telling you there are things I can’t do. Like it or not, without connectivity there’s no path between Point A and Point B that doesn’t involve hand written letters and a book of stamps.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Flint River water. Look, if I open my spigot and the resulting water is brown and filled with particulates, I’m not going to drink it no matter what local officials tell me about its safety. That’s exactly what I don’t hear from news reports coming out of Michigan. There are plenty of reports though of people who continued who were drinking away, despite what some might consider an obvious problem with the water… and now suddenly they’re surprised by the spate of health issues that have resulted. I’m afraid these Michiganders have fallen victim to two fallacies: 1) The government is looking out for your best interests and 2) Anyone else has ultimate responsibility for what you put in your body. While there is very clear blame to be laid on the state and local government in this case, there’s more than enough to spread around to individuals who failed to exercise their own personal responsibility in protecting their health and wellbeing.

2. A report out of the National Transportation Safety Board calls for the total ban of cell phones while driving, claiming it’s a distraction. Well bugger off. Everything inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle that’s not the steering wheel, gear shift, accelerator, and brake pedal is a distraction. The radio is a distraction. That drive-thru grease-burger is a distraction. Crying children in the back seat are a distraction. Bees flying through an open window are a distraction. So while we’re going, let’s ban all the distractions and save so many, many lives. We’ll do away with radios and drive-thrus, crying children and roll-down windows. We’ll cover the damned cars in bubble wrap and install an engine governor ensuring they can never go faster than 15 miles per hour. Fine, safety is important. While hurtling around in a one ton metal bullet we should all be paying attention to what we’re doing. What I don’t understand is what on earth anyone thinks passing one more law making a specific subset of distracted driving illegal (which in many jurisdictions it already is) will really do. Prohibition didn’t stop drinking. The war on drugs didn’t stop drug use. I have a hard time believing a ban on cell phones is going to stop people from checking that next text message. Don’t even get me started on the jackassery of how anyone might plan to enforce such legislation once it’s law.

3. The choices. Despite my personal preference for one of the other alternatives it appears more and more likely that 364 days (plus a leap year) from today, America is going to inaugurate a socialist, an unindicted felon, a megalomaniac billionaire, or a former Canadian citizen as President of the United States. Let that sink in for a moment if you will. I could launch into a long rant about how we got here, but frankly we’re more or less stuck with this band of misfits in 2016. My real question, the one that’s going to haunt me in my sleep, is how we get well from here. What’s it going to take to find some legitimate leadership in America in 2020 or are we henceforward and forever doomed to have such pretenders enthroned as the heirs of Washington and Jefferson?