The price of power…

Apparently in Texas you can sign up for a “wholesale” electricity plan. Just like a loan with a floating interest rate, it could be a real benefit to the consumer when rates are low. The catch is, the interest rate for loans or the wholesale cost of electricity changes over time. Sometimes it changes both dramatically and quickly.

Signing up for the “wholesale” plan makes eminent sense when gas and oil is flowing and prices are low. All it takes, though, is a single unexpected event to make such a decision catastrophically wrong. It’s the inherent risk of pinning your plans on a floating rate that’s governed entirely on the vagaries of supply and demand in a potentially volatile marketplace.

While I feel badly for the people who woke up this week to a $16,000 bill for electricity, I presume the contract they signed included a pretty large warning that price moved both up and down and often does so with great rapidity. I felt sorry, too, for people who signed up for zero percent mortgages only to realize that when their mortgages rest to the “real” rate they couldn’t afford both the principle and the interest.

In both cases, these are people who willingly bypassed traditional service agreements or mortgages in favor of “exotic” options. The low up-front cost of exotic options, even if no other explicit warning is made, should be a clear indication to the average consumer that they are assuming a greater than normal degree of personal risk. Both are just one step better than walking in to the local casino and putting your month’s mortgage or rent payment on red and hoping for the best.

Though I feel sorry for both groups, I don’t feel any more sense of personal responsibility to bail out electricity consumers who made bad choices than I did for bailing out homeowners who took on unreasonable levels of debt. Expecting to enjoy all the benefits of low prices without encountering the corresponding negative possibilities smacks of immature thinking. Constantly protecting people from the natural consequences of their own actions clearly hasn’t done us any favors, as it seems no one has taken any of the lessons to heart. 

Now because I’m not a complete bastard, I could be convinced that low-interests emergency loans for those needing relief is a reasonable idea, but simply wiping out legitimate debt because it’s politically expedient sends an appalling message. Mine won’t be the popular opinion, of course, since no one wants to be responsible for themselves and politicians don’t win votes in this modern world of ours by expecting anyone to live up to their personal obligations when a billion dollar bailout is available. So, really, those whole post is about nothing more than yelling into the void.

Maybe it’s more of a “you” problem…

There are a few things that make my eyes roll harder than the idea that women are held back in the world because they have to cook, do laundry, and tend to the basic chores of running the household while implying that men somehow don’t need to do those same things.

For most of the last twenty years, of my own volition, I’ve been breadwinner, cook, bottle washer, launderer, housekeeper, maintenance technician, armorer, groundskeeper, appointment maker, shopper-in-chief, and animal care officer. Somehow, I’ve managed to do those things while exerting the effort to reach a wide array of personal and professional goals.

Whatever perceived “male privilege” with respect to basic household management some seem to think accrues due to having a penis hasn’t shed its divine grace on how we do things here at Fortress Jeff. If it had, I clearly wouldn’t be typing this with one ear cocked to hear the buzz of the dryer or while casting the occasional thought towards what to make for dinner tonight.

So, when someone tells me I don’t understand that “Nobody cooks for her…,” honest to God, I have no earthly idea what they’re talking about. As a fully formed human adult, I possess the ability to do all of those things for myself – and I do them, because I like to eat and wear clean clothes. Since setting up housekeeping on my own twenty years ago, I’ve never expected anyone to manage those things on my behalf.

If you’re not happy with whatever domestic arrangement you’ve created for yourself, I struggle to think of it as a structural issue rather than a “you” problem. To the best of my knowledge there’s no Constitutional amendment, executive order, or holy writ codifying that ovaries are required to operate the damned stove or to take something out of the washing machine.

We live and die with the choices we make and the things we decide are acceptable or not. If someone or something is standing between you and the life you think you should be living, the onus is on you to find a way over, under, or through them… or just post funny, funny memes on the internet.

That probably works too. 

When dentistry is the lesser evil…

I’m not a fan of the dentist. Being a responsible adult I try not to let time drag out too long between visits… but given half an excuse, I’ll almost always opt to kick my appointment down the road for a few weeks before showing up.

Today I had ample opportunity to dodge my scheduled time in the chair. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Give the tenor of the week so far dentistry felt like the lesser of the two awful ways to spend an afternoon.

The fact that I’d rather face the drill than another afternoon of meetings probably says a lot about the head space I’m occupying currently. When days have a tendency to roll on with a grinding certainty, any deviation towards something different is a relative bright point. That fact that it’s true even with that “something different” is a couple people jamming sharp objects in your mouth should probably be more alarming than it currently feels.

May 4th or: On having no regrets…

Five years have come and gone since I was sitting in a West Tennessee cubicle and received a call from Mother Maryland that it was, at long last, time to come home. I will always celebrate it as one of my personal high holy days – the beginning of the end of a particularly troublesome personal and professional period otherwise known as my late twenties and early thirties.

Somehow it feels like it was a lot further away than just five years ago. The transition came with its own set of pains and problems, of course. The rental and eventual sale of a decidedly underwater house, footing the bill for dragging my gear a third of the way across the country, renting a house here sight unseen, the drug addict neighbor, the property manager who wouldn’t, and finding that the grass on the other side of the fence is still just grass no matter how green it may appear.

Every minute of that slog was worth it. It would have been worth the cost at twice the price. Even with the incumbent ups and downs, it’s one of those rarest of moments that I can look back on and say without sarcastic intent, that I regret nothing.

(Temporarily) Embracing my inner slacker…

This is one of those days where I’m reminded just how limited a scope of interest I currently seem to have. I could regale you with another in the latest round of stories about why the office is a shitshow. I could rant about any number of celebrities, political figures, policy decisions, or current events. In a pinch I could even bang out another about the alleged joy of home ownership. What I can’t do at the moment is give you a fresh and interesting take on any of those things. They seem to have become the background hum of every day.

I’m not an escapist by nature, but I find myself spending more and more evenings cramming my nose into a book and trying hard to ignore all the other noise. I don’t want to think about work. I’ve already had it up to my eyeballs with politics. I don’t have it in me to further ponder the expensive mud pit I’m about to have commissioned in the back yard. So for the moment, maybe I’m being a little more escapist than usual. Even so, spending the evening with a decent drink and a good story doesn’t sound particularly awful.

Conveniently I don’t have an inner adrenalin junky to satisfy or I’d probably be off signing up for sky diving lessons, so that seems like what it’s going to be for the time being – or at least until the other bits and pieces settled down a bit and are, on the whole, a little less exhausting. I’m usually inclined to try doing it all at once, but this one time I think it best to let my inner slacker lead the way for a while.

The things we sacrifice…

I’m reminded tonight of that which we give up in order to get the other things we want. As I recall, in economics, this idea of tradeoffs is partially defended as opportunity cost; the cost of the thing we forgo to achieve the next best option. Life is a tradeoff for all of us. Making one decision influences and determines what other decisions we will have the opportunity to make in the future; way piles on to way and what is lost is why we headed down our particular path in the first place.

Do you suppose we ever go so far in one direction that other options are closed off forever? The opportunity cost for our actions becoming an absolute? Is there some great moment of realization where each of our false steps is illuminated? Is there room for contrition? Or will self-recriminations and doubt end in the light of day?