What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. President Trump. Say what you want about Europe and the NATO alliance, but they represent most of our oldest and strongest allies. Maintaining strong working relationships there is a key element of American national security. If ever there was a moment for the president to reign in his normal impulse to ratchet up the drama, it would have been this week’s London summit. Pitching a hissy fit in the face of mean words isn’t a good look internationally.

2. Impeachment. The House of Representatives seems to have the votes to move forward with articles of impeachment against the president. The Speaker is a good enough politician not to bring the vote if she didn’t have the numbers. Soon enough the whole thing will be thrown over to the Senate for trial… where I can only assume the Majority Leader will manage the case every bit as politically as the Speaker has done laying the charges. Prediction: The president remains in office while Republicans and Democrats retrench and emerge more divided than ever.

3. Lyft assault accusations. About a million years ago when I was growing up, we were all consistently warned about the dangers of getting into cars with strangers. Now, here in the oh so advanced 21st century we’re suddenly surprised when bad things happen when you get into cars with strangers. It’s the kind of thing we use to call having some goddamned common sense.

The allies…

Over the last ten years we have seen multiple Islamic extremist attacks in Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and in the United States.

These nations represent some of our oldest allies and newest friends. They represent the bulwark between 1000 years of western civilization and religious fanatics who would see that civilization burn for their own sick purposes.

It is time the allies address Islamic extremism for what it is: a vile and evil tumor spreading across the globe. It is time that the allies declare that we will take not one more step backwards in the extremist campaign of a thousand cuts. It is time the allies eradicate those who threaten the peace and stability of the world.

This is the cause of our generation and it is far past time that we see it through.

All the news…

It’s a busy weekend. That’s good in so much as it means that this post more or less writes itself. That’s bad in that the world seem shell bent of flinging itself apart at the seams. Terror attacks on three continents that may not have been coordinated, but the timing of which is certainly close enough together to be suspect. A political fracas in the US that covers all the ground from heritage to hate to healthcare to marriage. The greeks have declared a bank holiday and appear all but determined to drive their country over their own fiscal cliff and straight into default while the European Union hopes the rest of them can shrug it off.

If you’ve kept an ear on the news, there’s a lot of information coming in on all fronts. Weekends are usually where they bury the stories we’re not supposed to pay attention to, but any one of the headlines this week would usually have legs all by itself. Combined, there’s almost something in there guaranteed to keep everyone stirred up at least for a few more turns of the news cycle.

I’m not fool enough to think any of these problems amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but they pace at which they keep coming is a little troublesome. I’ve got at least half a dozen methods of information delivery in an arm’s reach right now… and I find myself wondering if we all weren’t just a little bit better off when we got our news from the morning edition, the evening edition, and 30 minutes of TV highlights at 6PM.

The world’s always been a complicated place, but it’s only recently that we’ve all gotten the opportunity to watch the sausage made each and every day. I wonder if it isn’t time I try to force myself to tune it out for just a little while.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Greece. What’s the problem? You ginned up a mountain of bills and now suddenly don’t want to pay because it’s too hard. It’s unfair. The big countries are picking on you. God it sounds so familiar – like exactly what happened when so many people in this country found themselves in homes they couldn’t afford “through no fault of their own.” Except see, there is fault. There is definite fault when you spend other people’s money without any reasonably expectation of ever being able to pay it back. Putting your financial house in order is painful. It sucks. All the free stuff people thought they were entitled too is suddenly not free – or not there because you can’t afford it. And the only way the economy keeps on working is if people who loan money can expect to get that money back. It’s a loan, not a gift after all. I feel ever more strongly that the US is headed in a similar direction to our Greek friends. $18 Trillion in loans aren’t going to pay back themselves – and they’re certainly not going to get paid while we continue to add more debt to the pile. If Greece’s gnashing of teeth is any indicator of the howl that will go up when the US realizes we can’t afford to be all things to all people, we’re in for one hell of a rough ride.

2. Negotiating with terrorists. According to the US government it’s now OK for our fellow citizens to negotiate with terrorists. While I won’t pretend to imagine the nightmare that is having a family member or loved one in the hands of ISIS, I can tell you that I wouldn’t want my family to be responsible for providing aid and comfort to the enemy in the form of a substantial cash donation on my behalf. What I would like, on the other hand, is for the armored fist of the most powerful nation in the world to come crashing through the terrorist’s front door in an effort to a)rescue me and b) eradicate the terrorists who believe kidnapping an American citizen will end well for them. If Option A and Option B are mutually exclusive, please feel free to exercise Option B with as much lethality as necessary to get the job done. And then drop a few more 1000-pound bombs just to stir up the dust and make the rubble bounce a bit for good measure.

3. The joys of home ownership. Don’t get me wrong, I love the house. It crossed off just about every feature I had on my list. Having been in it now for three months, though, some of its warts are showing… and by warts I’m referring to the perpetually moist basement / piss poor foundation grading and drainage / sieve-like window well combination that I’ve been fighting since spring time turned into Maryland’s version monsoon season. Between the landscape contractors looking at fixes to my own modest efforts at improving the around-the-house drainage situation trying to get a grip on the underside of this not so old house has become something of a second job. Now I know it’s mostly just a function of sealing up the window well, correcting the drainage, and adding on a secondary source of electricity to keep the pumps chugging along… but just now, with another couple of days of rain in the forecast, my patience – something never know to be in vast supply – is wearing even more thin than usual.

A matter of priorities…

So Russia is back on the road towards rebuilding the old Soviet Empire. That’s bad, but it’s not what’s dominating my thoughts today. I’m my head I’m already projecting forward to Monday morning and wondering if the projected “winter weather event” will be enough to buy me just one more day of weekend. Maybe I’ve got my priorities all sorts of jacked up on that one, but Monday is the closest problem to me. Statistically, its arrival (and the ruination of the weekend) is an absolute certainty, making its bad results guaranteed to happen. Ukraine, on the other hand may or may not dissolve into civil war through the prodding of the Russians… and even if it does, that badness is less of a direct impact on me. Sure, it probably makes me a bad person to be more worried about Monday than another potentially catastrophic war starting in Eastern Europe, but if the rest of the world isn’t bothered that it’s on the fast track to hell in a handbag, I’m not going to waste a lot of time worrying either.

Hippies, sickness, and grad school…

OK, so I’m not going to lie to you guys. I got a good laugh out of at least two of this morning’s archive posts. There’s something about hippies that always makes me want to bash heads together and grad school, well, that experience so very often has the same effect. Still, they make for good blogging so I should probably be thankful.

For those following along at home, over the last few Sunday mornings we have made the transition from my original MySpace blog to the far more “grown up” blog hosted for a while over at Blogger. That doesn’t really change much in terms of style or content, but it does help set the tone and atmosphere of where these old posts come from.

At any rate, go ahead and enjoy this morning’s update from the end of March 2007. Next week we’ll start into April and feature blogs from my last trip to Italy. I know you’re not going to want to miss that… because frankly there isn’t much that makes for better copy than an American in in a foreign country.

Go global…

Say what you want about the evils of the global economy, but I’m an unabashed fan. Sure, it means we have to compete with countries that can manufacture just about everything cheaper than we can, but I think that misses the up side… Like being able to order something from Europe last night at 9:30 and having it sitting in Philadelphia 18 hours later waiting to clear Customs and get delivered to your door. I mean isn’t a little friendly competition a small price to pay for that kind of luxury and convenience?

I’ve traveled enough to know that the world’s too small a place to pretend that we can raise the drawbridge and keep everything out. By all means, we should regulate it, set the conditions under which it happens, and fight hard in those areas where we have a comparative advantage, but we can’t roll back the clock on international commerce any more than we can command the tides to go in or out. We need to encourage the kind of world where we can order anything, from anywhere and have it delivered in a day or two. It’s good for us as consumers, it’s good for them as merchants and manufacturers, and it forces us to take a realistic look at the kinds of things our own economy should be doing in the future. If going global isn’t a win-win scenario, I don’t know what is.

The Road to Pisa…

Note: This post is based on notes I made between March 30th and I reserve the right to edit this posting for content and clarity at a later date.

…Does not lead directly through Bologna. In fact, it’s more of a detour on the road to any of the major tourist towns. I’m glad we made the effort, though. It’s the seat of the oldest continuously operating university in Europe and with 100,000 students, it feels like a college town. The cafes are plentiful and the food is cheap… as long as you don’t order a Coke with lunch. Raining all morning, it was tough to get a real feel for the town, other than the overwhelming feeling of age. It’s hard to shake that feeling anywhere you go in Italy. The pictures I posted are from the Piazza Nettuno and San Petronio Cathedral.

Back on the road to Pisa, the rain finally gave way to a low overcast. First impressions are important and it’s hard to get past the idea of Pisa as a tourist trap. The vendors are thick along the walls and even inside the main gate, but once you’re past them, the things you see are simply amazing. Renaissance Pisa understood the concept of monumental architecture dead on. Coming through the city gate, you’re sort of surprised by the proportions of the religious center of the old city. Maybe it is a tourist trap, but it is one of those places that you just have to see to really appreciate.

Getting there is…

Note: This post is based on notes I made between March 27th and March 29th and I reserve the right to edit this posting for content and clarity at a later date.

In truth, getting there is really a giant pain in the ass. In our case, the pain was slightly magnified by having only a 45 minute scheduled layover in Munich. Clearing EU customs with 29 people, and getting to the next gate: simply not going to happen in 45 minutes. I’m fairly certain that’s some kind of natural law or something. At any rate, we missed our connecting flight and had the opportunity to spend an extra three hours in the beautiful Munich International Airport. That last part wasn’t actually snarky… The Munich Airport is a pretty nice place to be stuck… and you can smoke inside as long as you don’t mind standing in a small ventilated booth contraption. I wish I would have taken a picture of those. I may want to have one installed in the house if the weather doesn’t improve soon.

Munich is also a good place to people watch. And by people watch, I mean ogle foreign women with the confidence that you are almost guaranteed not to ever see them again. I need to note here that as a group, European women are just plain hot. Their accents are hot… and sweet Jesus, do they know how to dress. I don’t necessarily mean that they’re slut-ified, but hot in an elegant Kate Hepburn kind of way, but I digress.

The first real day of the tour started off with 29 exhausted tourists heading for a 45 minute boat ride to Venice. Most of us probably remember that Venice is the “City of Canals,” but what the history books usually leave out is that canals are, even today, the principle mode of transportation in the old city. Come to think of it, I don’t actually remember seeing any cars on the island. Not that those cars would have had anywhere to go, because as the books also left out, there really aren’t “roads” per se, more like alleys and footbridges. Basically, if you’re not on a boat, you’re walking. The place really is amazing. It’s one of those places where the pictures don’t really do it justice. I think the fact that we were really there hadn’t really settled in at that point, so those first days have a bit of a tendency to blur together. Venice is really something you have to see to believe. More something out of a picture book than a real place.