1. The White House Press Office. I’ve never been a public affairs officer. I haven’t even pretended to be on at the behest of our wealthy uncle. Still, in my bones I know that setting up my principle with over a dozen phone interviews with a journalist who hates his living guts is probably not going to end well even if my guy is the most articulate bastard to ever give on the record remarks. You can make what you will of the president’s recorded statements, but whatever staff puke from the press office decided an interview series with Bob Woodward was a good idea gives staff officers a bad name… and that’s saying something.
2. Questions. Look, if there’s a point of contact listed and it’s not me, there’s really absolutely nothing I’m going to be able to tell you about whatever topic is on your mind. Maybe you should just go ahead and read to the end of the message and send your question to the person who’s actually running that program. You still might not get a good answer but it will be miles better than anything I’ll send you… and even if it wasn’t, going direct to that person would have kept you from making me take the time to drop you back in the proper lane. We all win, when you read the goddamned memo.
3. Risk. People, as a group, do a really shitty job of assessing risk. The way we respond to natural disasters like fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes seem to bear that out. For as long as I can remember, summer in the west has been “fire season.” It’s also “hurricane season” along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In the long history of humanity, fire has scorched the western sections of the North American continent. Water has always run downhill, occasionally turning normally babbling brooks in the valley bottom into torrential rivers sweeping all before them. Every time a fire or a flood or a hurricane hit, we collectively look around shocked that such a thing could happen. Except none of us should be shocked at all. We built our communities in dry areas historically prone to fire, or we built them along the coasts or in bucolic valleys that are prone to flooding. We built there because the scenery was nice or because there were local jobs – but almost never because the area represented a relatively low risk to life, health, and safety. As soon as the smoke clears or the water recedes, we’ll go right back to building up the same areas and then being “surprised” the next time the worst happens… because we do an amazingly shity job of assessing risk.
I had another post written for tonight, but in light of the great fire sweeping Notre Dame cathedral those words fade to less than insignificant.
With its cornerstone laid in 1163, Notre Dame saw nearly the entire rise of Western civilization in its shadow over the last 855 years. It saw Paris grow and expand into one of the world’s handful of indisputably great cities.
As a young 18 year old American in Paris, I was fortunate to pass through the cathedral over 20 years ago. Honestly I don’t remember many details of that trip now, but I remember standing in the nave of Notre Dame and being awestruck – exactly the effect that it’s long ago designers and builders had hoped to achieve.
I’m not religious in any significant way… but Notre Dame wasn’t about just being Catholic, or even being Christian. Yes, the great structure was raised to the glory of God, but it was also about celebrating great art, and architecture, and an undeniable knowledge that there is, and there should be, something larger than ourselves. You couldn’t stand before the great rose windows and feel anything other than humble.
Tonight I grieve for the people of Paris, and France, and the world at the loss of such a treasure trove of our collective history. This world is poorer and darker for its loss.
1. Designer kindling. The internet just tried to sell me a $50 cardboard box of L.L. Bean branded kindling. The biggest problem I have with any of this is that if Bean has bothered to assemble a 35 pound box of kindling and put it on their sales rack, more than one person has actually bought it. That means there are people out there among us that spent $50 to have kindling shipped directly to their door. It feels like there are so many better ways to start a fire – shred a bit of newsprint, tear off some parts of that empty cereal box, soak a few cotton balls in petroleum jelly, or put a match to some of the lint you cleaned out of your clothes dryer. Throw a few small, dry sticks aboard and you could have saved yourself $50 plus shipping. Then again, you’d have missed out on the chance to impress your guests with your big box of designer kindling. The deeper we wade into it, the more I really do hate the 21st century.
2. Freedom of Speech. No, the NFL is not taking away anyone’s “free speech.” The First Amendment specifically prevents government from restricting speech, so unless you live in some Bizzaroland where you’re being governed by the commissioner and franchise owners, you sound like a ranting lunatic when you make that argument. The league, like most other business, is identifying what they deem acceptable behavior in the workplace. Knowing those conditions, people are then free to work for the NFL or not. As it turns out, even millionaires aren’t exempt from having a few limits placed on what they can say and do at the work place. After all, if it weren’t for those kind or rules, who in your office would decide that their version of “free expression” was dispensing with pants for the duration of their 8-hour shift?
3. LED bulbs. Over the last 3 years I’ve worked steadily to replace all the incandescent light bulbs on the homestead with LEDs. There’s been a surprisingly respectable reduction of power consumption (and corresponding reduction in cost) over time. This week, the bulb in one of the garage door openers went out and I dutifully replaced it with one of the spare LEDs I had laying around. It turns out there’s enough wattage running through the opener even when it’s “off” that it keeps the bulb lit at what I’m guessing is about 10% of it’s full output. It’s probably not enough to burn the house down, but it’s enough to be aggravating. I’d rather have a old-fashioned bulb burning for 5 minutes than a fancy new LED that burns all day every day until the end of time.
I’m going to have to stop eating chicken. Every time I’ve had chicken for dinner in the last six months I’ve had these bizarrely realistic dreams. Realistic in that they feature almost entirely people that I know in the real world and bizarre in that the situations range from mildly entertaining to something just shy of horrifying.
Last night’s edition of What Chicken-Fueled Dreams May Come featured a long time friend of mine standing high on a rock outcropping overlooking a ten story building that disappeared into the darkness on either end of the dream frame. Flicking her wrist, snarling “fuck them,” the building collapsed in on itself, bursting into flame from the center out. The wind swirled in, feeding the growing conflagration. Her face danced, colored alternately in darkness in bright flicking oranges and yellows, while I stood gape jawed staring at the destruction.
I turn, my own fury rising, shouting over the now howling wind, “What did you do? What the fuck did you…”
Then she kissed me. Not the soft peck of a years long friend, but more a full body porn star quality kiss. Sure, I just dream-watched one of my oldest friends lay waste to everything in my field of view, but that part at least didn’t suck so much.
Then I woke up, safe in my own bed, and not watching the world around me collapse into flame and chaos.
Living in my head is awfully strange sometimes… but obviously chicken turns it into a raging dumpster fire. Good times.
1. Warehouse fires. You know what warehouses are good for? Storing large quantities of things. That’s what they’re designed to do. You know what they’re not good at? Letting large numbers of people get out of them quickly when something goes wrong. They aren’t designed for that. Trying to push a large number of panicked people through a limited number of available exits is the working definition of a death trap. Sure the building owner has fault. The event promoter has fault. But the individuals who found themselves caught in the trap are not guiltless. If you walk into any building or room, particular one that is stacked to the rafters with flammable material and don’t immediately identify two or three (or more) exit routes you’re as culpable for what happens to you as anyone else – even more so since no one has more responsibility for your personal safety that you do yourself.
2. Staff Meetings. Two hour staff meetings are about a 110 minute waste of time under the very best of circumstances. Jamming one into the very end of the day on Friday reeks of desperation, or need to feel in control, or just trying to give everyone a giant douche-tastic start to their weekend. In any case, late Friday afternoon staff meetings fall very far short of the best of times. A good leader might be tempted to say, “You know what, this week the meeting was just overcome by competing events so shoot me an email of no more than five lines and tell me what you’re up to so I can look at them over the weekend.” Of course that would require the person making the decision to fall into both the “good” and “leader” category. If it turns out to be just another manager, well, we’ll see you for your Friday afternoon meeting.
3. Stop fucking shouting. Walk your lazy ass to the other side of the room. Or pick up the phone if you’re really that lazy. Maybe try out an instant messenger app. Since the gods on Olympus decided we need need to be packed in to the office at a density that no sane person would consider reasonable, the very least you can do is try you use your goddamned indoor voice, show a touch of courtesy to those around you, and pretend, even if just for a minute, that you have the sense God gave the average Christmas goose.
Delayed, but not forgotten, here’s your rundown of What Annoys Jeff this Week…
1. I don’t like universal healthcare as a concept, but I do like that the court has insisted on calling mandatory health insurance what it is: a tax, just like all the other taxes we pay but whose purpose we may not necessarily agree with. I’m annoyed by people who say “the court got it wrong.” The court didn’t get it any more wrong this time than they did a million years ago when they controversially ruled in Bush v. Gore. As an aside, it’s about time we collectively figure out that just because we don’t like something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s “wrong.” All it means is that we don’t like it. Nine pretty smart people made a decision based on their interpretation of the law, nothing more, nothing less. That puts the issue of health care and insurance squarely back in the political arena, so take it up with your Member of Congress, not the court.
2. Lack of Proper Planning. I heard a rumor once that proper planning prevents piss poor performance. If I ever get the opportunity to experience proper planning in person, I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll just go ahead and continue to expect “performance issues.”
3. Arson laws. If I want to set my house on fire and let it burn it to the ground, I should be perfectly within my rights to do so. That would so much pent up aggravation. Alternately, expensive things could just stop needing repaired. Either way works.
I didn’t think it was possible, but I may have awarded the Asshat of the Week trophy too early in the week. As I was motoring towards my apartment following the two hour afternoon commute from hell, I noticed a plume of black smoke ascending from the end of the exit ramp. Coasting to a stop behind a gathering line of traffic at the top of the ramp, I has a beautiful view of one of our local gas stations. Sitting in the edge of the parking lot, about 15-20 feet from the pumps, was a car that had obviously pulled off the road. There was fire. A lot of fire.
Now, I understanding the engine compartment catching on fire while driving your vehicle is bound to be a traumatic experience. I also understand that you instinct will be to pull off and run like hell away from said potential fire ball. Instinct, however, should also warn you not to pull into a gas station and abandon you flaming fireball of a vehicle.
The sign at the pump clearly illustrates not to smoke and not to use your cell phone. It even spells out how to make sure that you ground yourself prior to using the pumps. It does not, however, stop to explain the danger of parking a flaming car in close proximity to a dozen gas pumps. I guess there should have been a sign.
I’m not even going to mention the half dozen upstanding citizens who were standing there pumping gas into their own cars, oblivious to the potential blaze of glory in which they were about to be vaporized. I think one of them was even talking on her cell phone. Tisk Tisk. She must have missed the sign, too.