On a future without the car…

I read an article today that prognosticated the death of personally owned vehicles and the internal combustion engine within the next 20 years. It made many fine points projecting how much safer, more convenient, less expensive, and environmentally conscience eliminating the traditional family car would be. We could all hail them like an Uber, let them drive us to our destination while sleeping or fidgeting with our spinner, and paying a “nominal tax” for the maintenance and upkeep of this new and exciting public service.

It’s an interesting concept, to be sure. Then, of course I look at how well we’ve managed to maintain the current generation of public infrastructure and wonder what madman would willingly give up his clean and well maintained personal vehicle in perpetuity for the joys of the sights, smells, and sounds of public transportation in automobile-sized formats? I’m thinking of the guys I’ve seen taking a leak on the DC Metro and the noxious mix of whatever it is that makes taxi floors so disgustingly odoriferous. Add in the part that one of these marvelous transportation pods might not be available when and where you need one, and it sounds like a real winner of a plan to me.

Look, maybe it’s the kind of thing that would make some flavor sense for someone living in a dense urban environment or those consciously deciding to forgo privately owning a vehicle – a group that already seems largely served by things like trains, buses, taxis, and ride sharing schemes. For those of us who made the conscious decision to live in a rural part of the country, I have no idea how something like this makes sense. The density of pods needed just to get people in my rural county to and from work would seem to be prohibitive at first blush. Then add in the times you need to have something like a pickup truck to haul trash, or furniture, or firewood, or just to make a trip to the garden center and the plan frays even further around the edges. Are there going to be special freight pods that come with even less unit density than the normal passenger pods and how much inconvenience are people as a group going to tolerate to make this concept work?

It’s an interesting notion, but for the foreseeable future is going to be a hard no from me. I like knowing I have a machine only a few feet away that I can climb into and, with a reasonable amount of maintenance and upkeep, transport myself anywhere on the continent at the time and route of my own choosing. I have no intention of giving that up that level of freedom and convenience to feed someone’s nightmare hellscape dream of a “future without cars.”

They’re not all shitbirds…

Temperatures are supposed to rise over the next few days. Even if it were going to stay cold,  firing up the snowblower for the two inches that fell yesterday would have been overkill. I was happy enough leaving things be and letting sun and warmth do their thing. 

Around 10:00 my doorbell rang, which is unusual enough in and of itself to be noteworthy. Standing on the front porch in all of 20 degree weather was a kid of about 12 wanting to know if I wanted the driveway shoveled. His partner, had already started pushing snow around the end of the driveway (which is a pretty shrewd sales tactic by the way). 

We always bitch about kids today who want something for nothing. But here, in a neighborhood where I would least expect it, were two kids looking to work for a little pocket money. It didn’t strictly need doing, but playing my part in this little life lesson felt like the right thing to do. My wallet is $20 lighter, but I feel like it means a hell of a lot more to them then it did to me. 

I won’t say My faith in humanity has been restored or anything… though I do now have some hope that they’re all not going to turn out to be shitbirds.

The number two thousand…

The earliest post I’ve been able to track down showed up on June 1, 2006. There were some earlier efforts, I’m almost sure, but my own records only go back that far. If there are earlier posts out there somewhere, I’ve lost them to the electronic ether.

Nine years and 1,999 posts later we arrive at my 2,000th post. I’m not sure if that means I have too much to say, too much free time, or too much nascent desire for attention. A combination of the three is the most likely reason I’ve stuck with it this long. For whatever reasons, while other hobbies and interests have come and gone, the blog, in all its many forms has remained a consistent part of my life. At this point I’m not sure how I would self-identify without it.

It’s been tempting over the years to monetize the effort, to sell my services to other sites, or even to give it up completely, but obviously none of those ideas ever stuck. For these last 2,000 posts I’ve always been writing about whatever happened to be on my mind. It’s always been writing to sooth my own soul and to suit my own sensibilities.

Like it says up there in “About” at the top of the site:

Let’s get one thing straight from the beginning: I’m not a regular guy. I don’t spend all weekend watching sports and I think domestic beer, for the most part, sucks. I’m never going to discuss how much I can bench press or how big my engine is. What I will do is comment on those issues that strike my interest on any given day including but not limited to travel, politics, technology and life’s unavoidable interaction with stupid people. Some posts will be mundane others will be rants of a more epic variety. I strive to keep it entertaining, but in the end I’m writing for my own benefit, not for an audience. If you’re waiting for a big finish, there isn’t one. This is what it is.

Maybe that’ll change at some point in the future, but I suspect you’ll hear much the same thing in 2024 when we’re talking about the 4,000th post.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Temptation. Being a diabetic at Christmas has got to be like being a priest in a whore house; sure you can walk around and take in all manner of temptation, but you’re really not supposed to touch any of it. Not that it stopped me over the last two weeks from ingesting all manner of cookies and fudge and suet pudding and candy and cake. Yeah, I probably sliced weeks off my life, but damn it was all good. I’m terrible at resisting temptation. Yet another reason I’d make an awful priest… and why I make an even worse diabetic.

2. Situational awareness. One of the problems with having a big, beautiful human-sized brain is that it lets us make projections about the future based on past experience. What my past experience tells me is that this wonderfully unproductive Christmas vacation is rushing towards an end and there isn’t a thing I can do to slow it down. If that doesn’t annoy a guy, I have no idea what would.

3. There is no number three this week. As you read in #2, I’ve been off and that removes a pretty significant source of annoyance. I’m sure we’ll be back to a full head of steam by this time next week.

Precognition…

So far today I’ve have the opportunity to enjoy all of my usual warning signs that some kind of head cold / sinus thing is in the offing. Itchy eyes? Check. Sore, scratchy throat? Check. Difficulty focusing on any activity lasting more than ten minutes? Check. Constant state of cold/shivers? Check. General feeling of “not quite right.” Check.

Usually my body is kind enough to give me these symptoms as a kind of 48 hour warning that I should wrap up anything important I’m doing and plan on spending a few days on the couch. Since my throat started tickling a little after lunchtime yesterday, I’m willing to bet that my noon-ish tomorrow, maybe as late as close of business, I’m going to feel like warm death. It’s not always a sure thing, but the signs are pretty consistent over time – consistent enough that I’ll be utterly shocked if I don’t end this week feeling like crap.

Thought I’ve often wished for the power to predict the future, I generally only want precognition for important activities like tonight’s winning Powerball numbers or the correct finishing order for a trifecta at Preakness. Going through life knowing with certainly when you’re about to get a cold feels like an awfully lame bit of foresight into the misty uncertainty of tomorrow.

The more things change…

I’m afraid we’re screeching back into one of those times when I’m going to spend far too much time casting around for new blog ideas. In this case, the problem isn’t any kind of block, but rather that everything I really want to write about is embargoed or otherwise of a nature that I consider it out of bounds for this forum. It really is a pity, because I know there are some real doozies that are sitting in my notes just wasting away. Sure, maybe they’ll see the light of day sometime in the future when they’re less relevant, but there’s no denying that takes the edge off them.

If you’ve read The Cynic’s Guide, you’ve already read most of this story. God knows I’ve already lived it. The best I can tell you is that the past is a pretty damned good indicator of what the future is going to be like. It’s 100% situation normal in the belly of the bureaucracy… and that’s a uniquely off combination of comforting and infuriating. If nothing else, I know what to expect. I’ve been here before after all. The names and faces are different, the scenery has changed, but it’s the same old, tired story. The more things change, the more they never do… at least this round of eye rolling is on the banks of Mother Chesapeake instead of Big Muddy.

A good month…

With 1,233 visits, an average of 40 visits per day, and a one day record of 148 visits, October was a good month for jeffreytharp.com. The only sure thing I’ve learned from running a blog this long is that you can never expect success. It’s best to go into each post assuming that you’re writing to satisfy an audience of one: yourself. That’s why I’m savoring the high points when they come – especially since the last record setting month was back in May 2011. What that trend tells me is that apparently people like to see ranting about work (May 2011 I was in the final stages of escaping my previous employer) and raging about government ineptitude (This past October saw the latest government shutdown and endless incidents of political asshattery).

As tempting as it is to chase that trend, I don’t think that’s what I want to spend all my time writing about. The reason I’ve never settled into a topical niche is that I tend to be interested in whatever happens to go on around me on any given day. Maybe that’s a character flaw, but it does give me wide latitude when it comes to picking topics. I very much like having latitude.

So with that said, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing around here for almost four years now. I’ll keep writing, you keep reading, and we’ll see if we can’t set a new record sooner rather than later. And because I don’t do it often enough, let me just say thanks to everyone who’s reading along at home, those who impart a snarky word from time to time, throw me a like, or even just shake your head in amazement that someone would bother to manage this much schlock on the internet. This is definitely the best non-paying job on the internet, but I still have a few surprises up my sleeve for the future so let’s go ahead and plan for the best being yet to come.