What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Listening to US news outlets talk about UK elections. This past Monday Boris Johnson was elected leader of the Conservative Party. He was not, as every cable news program I watched was want to tell me, elected the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Now in every likelihood as the newly installed leader of the majority, he will become the next PM, but that won’t happen until he’s formally invited by Her Majesty to form a government in the Queen’s name. Pedantic? Yes. A technicality? Yes. But details matter when your stated aim is to inform the public about the news of the day… or at least they should.

2. The common cold. It’s the 13th day of dealing with the immediate or after effects of having my latest round of summer crud. I’m fortunate that whatever bug it is usually only catches up with me every couple of years. Even so, I’m left to wonder how the hell, fifty years after we landed men on the moon, we don’t have a better curative for the common cold than rest and drink plenty of water. If I’m paying $15 for ten days worth of decongestants and $9 for cough syrup, it feels like someone could reasonably charge five times as much for a product that actually made you feel better… although at this point, I’d cheerfully pay ten times as much.

3. Hydration. This bit is really a corollary to this week’s second annoyance, but one that feels like it deserves it’s own space. Since “drink plenty of fluids” is part of the generically accepted treatment for the common cold, I’ve been doing my best to follow that guidance. I’ve been drinking easily two or three times my usual daily amount of water (and substituting with something like Gatorade when one more glass of water sounds like the most disgusting and repulsive idea ever). The problem is that drinking plenty of fluids is only the input. For every extra ounce of liquid taken onboard, there is a corresponding increase in the amount of “output” once the body has processed it… which creates a need to get up two or three times through the night to take a damned leak. My position is that the guidance to drink lots of fluids directly contravenes the commonly accompanying requirement to get plenty of rest. Doing the former guarantees that I will not be able to do the latter.

Stoned…

One of the great perks of hoarding sick leave early in my career is now having a giant stack of it available to use when I’m not feeling up to snuff. Today is one of those days – when the better part of valor was parking myself on the couch and flooding the system with medication instead of dragging myself to the office as if I thought I still had anything to prove to anyone.

Instead, after breakfast, and a few odds and ends, I sat here muttering at the dogs, facing a few hours where I’m nearly stoned into inaction. I’m not sure I could operate heavy equipment even if I wanted to. They may be on to something with that warning.

What they’re not on to, apparently, is the definition of the phrase “non-drowsy.” Hey, I like being as blitzed as the next guy, really, but damned if it wouldn’t be nice to have a option that could dry out my sinuses without sending me face down on the kitchen table. Yeah. That would be great.

Winter of our discontent…

It was 10 degrees when I woke up yesterday morning. It’s winter, so that’s not unheard of here along the shores of the Chesapeake. I do have to wonder at the first settlers who arrived here and endured their first long winter. What compelled them to stay here rather than picking up stakes and opting for somewhere south of Norfolk. I can only speculate that they were stranded and without means to build a boat of their own to get the hell away to somewhere more temperate.

The poor bastards that lived here in log houses with mud insulation and wood heat and managed not to freeze to death were surely hearty souls. Far more hearty that I feel during the current unpleasantness. I don’t mean to imply that I heat the place excessively. I’m generally comfortable around 68 degrees. I try to get by at 67 as at least a passing nod towards saving fuel. Even at that my fancy new ultra high efficiency propane furnace was running flat out more often than it wasn’t.

I’m fortunate in that the house is well constructed and reasonably well insulated. Even at that, it’s teaching me a few details I’ll remember when I build the final version of Fortress Jeff. I’ll have more south facing windows with interior shutters to close at night. I’ll cut back the tree line far enough to get unobstructed sunlight. There will be in-floor heat for the bathroom. It’s going to be way more insulated than code requires. And there’s going to be zoned heating. I find myself here pumping hot air into parts of the house I only walk into a couple times a year.

Finally, I’m missing the one thing on my wishlist that I traded away because the current house ticked so many of my other “must have” items – a wood stove or fireplace. Let’s face it, if I can prop my feet up on a hearth with a good book and some coffee most of my basic requirements are already being met. Unfortunately, with every passing winter I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of the cold. The amount of time I’ve already spent devising ways to push the natural environment away by a few degrees just doesn’t bode well for what I’ll be spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about in the future.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The cold. Whatever tolerance I built up for it during my formative years in the shadow if Savage Mountain has been worn away by too much of my adulthood spent in the south and along the flatter lands of eastern Maryland. This shows itself in my current situation of sitting inside with the furnace running flat out, wearing two shirts, a sweater, and wool socks, and wondering where one goes to order a nice set of long johns. I use to think the North Woods of Maine might make a nice place to end up… I’m afraid I’m going to have to reconsider this position.

2. Why aren’t we talking about “Topic X more?” I read an article online a few days ago complaining that we were no longer laser focused on whatever happened to be the Issue of the Month a couple of months ago. I’m sure all the previous Most Important Things are still important. Personally it’s that I have limited RAM to allocate to the whole universe if things there are to give a damn about. It’s allocated to work stuff, stuff to keep the house up and running, getting from here to retirement, a few things I’m passionate about, and then one or two crises of the moment. That’s it. The world has always been full of problems that need solving. 100 years ago we only saw the ones we happened to walk past. I really don’t think the world is any more in the shitter than it was back then. The only thing different is now we can find out just how jacked up things are in every corner of the world instead of only our little part of it.

3. Shipping Address. There’s an agency in the federal government that I order products from every year. The products are billed automatically and shipped out as soon as they are released. Easy peasy. Except no. This year, the first of these was scheduled to ship out to an address where I haven’t lived in three years. I have no idea. Fortunately I caught it before processing was complete. They couldn’t manage to change the address of an order “in progress” but at least I got it cancelled before it arrived safely to whoever is living at my old address. As turns out, their ordering system was picking up the old address because you have to change the shipping address in at least two places on their website. Instead of just clicking the button that says “change address” under your profile, you also have to go in and change your address under each individual product. I ended up entering the address in three separate locations in addition to the correct address that was already built into my online profile. That seems incredibly counterintuitive, but then again it’s a federal website so perhaps it’s not at all surprising… although that doesn’t explain how the shipping world out ok last year. Sometimes it’s best not to ask.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Fuzzy thinking. I whore my brain out an hour at a a time. Clear thinking and the ability to assimilate large amounts of information into a coherent structure are sort of the baseline level expectation. I think one of the biggest reasons I’ll never be a “drug person” is how much harder it is to take on and process information even when just under the influence of fairly innocuous over the counter medications. Being stoned is fun an all, but I’ll be happy to trade it away for not having to will every single synapse to fire individually in order to get through a complete thought.

2. Taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. If you have something to say, or if you think you have something to say, go ahead and get to the damned point. It’s bad enough that you’re calling me on the telephone, but when you don’t keep it to an absolute minimum amount of time required I’ve already tuned you out around the two minute mark.

3. A Day Without Immigrants. I don’t know anyone who is downplaying the roll immigrants had and continue to have on this country. I don’t know anyone who is arguing in favor of slamming shut the doors to American citizenship forever. What I do know, though, is the Day Without Immigrants protest refuses to make a differentiation between legal immigration and those who have arrived and/or stay in this country illegally. You can flail your arms and shout until you’re purple in the face and you will simply never convince me that I have a moral responsibility to provide for the care and feeding of those here outside the law beyond what is necessary to adjudicate their case and return them forthwith to their country of origin (or next convenient parallel dimension). So you can close all the big city restaurants you want for as long as you want, but I’m going to continue to insist that 1) legal immigration is a net positive overall and 2) illegal immigration should be stopped.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The Obvious. Headlines screaming “America in Deep Freeze,” or “Arctic Blast Cripples East Coast,” or “The Big Chill,” seem a bit superfluous at the moment. It’s mid-December here in the northern hemisphere. We’re right up against the winter solstice. For those who need it spelled out, that means for the next three months or so, cold is perfectly normal and should, generally, be expected. If for some reason the arrival of winter and cold weather have caught you off guard and unprepared, well, you’re an idiot. The fact that so many people are idiots, however, still does not make “it’s cold in the winter” a breaking news story.

2. Election Meddling. It’s cute that we’ve collectively decided that foreign powers meddling in a US election has raised the collective hackles of the press. Anyone familiar with their history over the last 200 years will tell you that we meddle every bit as much as the Russians. Ask the Iranians who ousted the Shah. Ask the Vietnamese about the Diem brothers. Ask any number of Latin American countries about our “helpful” deployment of Marines to ensure their elections turned out the way we wanted them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as angry about Russian interference as anyone, but for us to pretend we don’t do the exact same thing everywhere else on the planet is the height of hypocrisy.

3. Competing priorities. Given the lack of guidance I currently operate under, I’m put in a position where I have to make decisions about what problems get my attention and which ones don’t. I imagine I get it right more often than not (but that’s a complete guess since feedback is also something we don’t do). So when you stop me in the hall at the end of the day and wonder why I wasn’t in some meeting I was “supposed” to be in, there’s fair chance that time got allocated to one of the competing priorities that appeared to be more pressing. I’d be more than happy to work the issues in any order leadership sees fit if they’d just bother to tell me the flavor of the day. If they are going to leave me to my own devices, I’d mostly appreciate not getting blind sided in those rare moments when they choose to care.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Mandatory attendance. If you want me as seat filler, just say so. Don’t pitch it as a great opportunity to hear some very important words if you’re just looking for asses in chairs. With more to do and fewer people to do it, spending two hours bored to tears hardly feels like the most efficacious use of limited resources, but I’m just a guy sitting here so what the hell do I know.

2. Stuff in my head. I’m feeling pretty good, especially considering how absolutely shitty I was feeling last week. I can’t seem to shake the giant wad of funk that’s taken root deep in my sinuses though. If I could get rid of the wondrous endlessly dripping nose and occasional hacking cough all would be pretty right with the world just now.

3. Paving. Roads need to get paved. It’s one of the few things I don’t mind paying taxes to fund. That being said, it would be awfully convenient if it could be scheduled in such a way as to not take place during peak traffic hours. Seems to me that there are large swaths of time in the middle of the night that would be useful for doing that kind of work that wouldn’t cause mayhem and chaos with everyone else’s schedule… but again, what the hell do I know about operations and logistics.

Man cold…

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived on my own for most of my adult life, but when I see sitcoms or commercials making fun of the “man cold,” I really have no idea what they’re talking about. Sure, I stayed home from work, but given the shit ton of sick leave I’ve banked over the last 14 years I don’t exactly feel guilty about that.

My point here is that even if my breathing rattles like a steam locomotive, there’s mucus oozing out of every opening, and I sound like I’ve swallowed a bassoon, there are no enablers here. Meals needs prepped, dogs need tended, and there’s a household to run whether I feel great or not… so I do hope you’ll forgive me if I struggle to understand exactly how my gender is supposed to be debilitated by the average summer cold. Just color me confused.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to scavenge another box of tissues and another bottle of NyQuil.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Snap decisions. I remember the first time I bought a house – way back in 2001 – and it felt like a much more civilized process. Sure, there was an endless supply of paperwork to make the offer, go through the negotiating rounds, and square away financing, but it wasn’t clogging up my inbox every day demanding immediate attention. The agent or mortgage guy would call, I’d find some time to stop by their office, sign off on this or that, and then go on about by business. In this latest version of the game I’m feeling a little hammered by incoming rounds of email from inspectors, mortgage brokers, my agent, my bank, preliminary calls to insurance companies, and the call sheet from hell which lists all of the other services and utilities I’ll need to build new relationships with between now and (assumed) closing. I’m making a lot of snap decisions and I’m fairly sure I’m making good ones, but this could be awfully close to a full time job if a guy let it… and one of those at a time is more than enough.

2. Broken dream. I’ve always secretly thought Alaska might be a nice place to live. Lots of wide open space between me and the next guy. Plenty of food on the hoof. Not needing to learn a needing to learn a second language like I would if I washed up on an island in South America. However, consistent morning temperatures hovering between zero and five degrees have now officially led me to believe that I am singularly ill equipped to deal with sustained stretches of stupid cold weather. That dream is officially over.

3. The morning commute. I get it. You ended up in the left turn lane, but you really wanted to go straight. You know what you shouldn’t do? You shouldn’t just sit there in the left lane with your right blinker flashing in hopes that some kind soul will let you correct your mistake while the turn arrow cycles through its all-too-brief green phase and 300 yards of traffic backs up behind you. That’s especially true when your dinky toy car is too small to be seen around Big Red and people behind me think it’s just me sitting there like a jerk off holding up their day. Next time go ahead and turn left, pop a u-turn, and let the rest of us get along with our morning without paying the price for your asshattery and inability to manage basic driving skills. People like you are the only reason I’ve resisted the temptation to add a bull bar to my front bumper… because if I had it, I know I could’t resist the temptation to just nudge your dumbass out into traffic and be on my way. I’m just not caffeinated enough at 7AM to deal with that level of foolishness.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The value of time. In the final episode of the HBO series The Tudors, an aging King Henry advised his closest friend that time was the most tragic of all losses, because it “is the most irrecuperable for it can never be redeemed.” So it is… and it would serve as a solid reminder for the great and the good to be mindful to start – and stop – their proceedings in a timely manner. While they may be lord high shits in their own collective minds, you can stake your last greenback dollar that I don’t value their time any more highly than I value my own.

2. Automatic Tire Pressure Sensors. I started driving back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the only way to know the pressure of the air in your tires was to check it manually – which I mostly did consistently each month unless one appeared to be low or otherwise in need of attention. Flash forward to 2014 and I’ve got a handy little sensor in each tire now that blinks a bothersome orange warning light whenever one of the tires has fallen out of standard. To put more of a fine point on it, this event only seems to happen precisely at 6:32AM, in the dark, when it’s 6 degrees with the wind chill making it feel -10. I’m sure that three extra pounds of air I put in the tires this morning was important, but I’m just now starting to feel my fingers again. All things considered, the damned sensors are more trouble than they’re worth.

3. Online Ordering. For the second time in as many weeks I’ve called to check on orders with two separate companies only to find that “oh, there was a problem processing the payment.” That’s not a huge deal, of course, but it would have been useful if they had at least made an effort to contact me and let me know the thing I was expecting to show up wasn’t on the move to its destination. No email. No phone call. Not a word until I went sniffing around wondering why shipping a package out suddenly took almost a week. A little basic customer service is all I expect. Just a touch. The tiniest show of interest would be appreciated… but that’s clearly a bridge too far.