What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Ice. I hate dumb stupid ice and the asshole who didn’t salt his driveway because “why bother, it’ll melt in a few days anyway. Occasionally I am a real idiot. Conveniently I was summarily punished for it so I feel balance has been restored.

2. Not doing the maths. I don’t even want to guess how many times I’ve watched someone walk to the checkout only to be rung up and announce in what appears to be complete surprise that “I don’t have that much.” Maybe some quick maths before getting to the counter would have been helpful. On any given day I’m keeping a reasonably accurate running total on two different checking accounts, three savings accounts, two brokerage accounts, one e-trade account, two IRAs, a “401(k)” type account, the Dow and S&P 500, and the spot price of gold, silver, and bitcoin. I won’t always know what those numbers are to the cent, but you can bloody well believe I’ll know if I have enough funds available to cover a cart full of whatever it is I’m trying to buy before I get to the point of sale. It isn’t about wealth or poverty. It’s about awareness and knowing the condition of all the resources you can bring to bear on the day. Situational awareness in all its many forms is your friend, kids.

3. Mr. coffee. My venerable 11 year old Mr. Coffee seems to be on his last legs. It’s mostly failing to drip through the last cup of water and when it does, it brings a quarter cup of grounds through to the carafe with it. No amount of scrubbing or spring adjustment seems to make a difference. I’m suspect of change at the very best of times… and changing something as central to my life as the coffee maker feels likely to set all my nerves twitching.

Frozen over…

When it comes to driving in snow, I’m not what one would usually call a Nervous Norvis. Couple that with capable 4-wheel drive and you can count on a few fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve wanted to go somewhere that it was prevented by the prevailing weather. Today, though, was one of those days.

This morning, the tail end cut out from under me before I even made it through the turn off the driveway and into the street. Add in sliding gracefully through the next two stop signs and it might not have been my worst day of driving but it easily ranks in the top ten. I’m told the main roads were fine, but living among a warren of back roads running across hill and dale, it’s fifteen minutes to the closest “main road” under the best conditions.

A decade ago, I’d have pressed on and damn the consequences. This morning, though, was more of a “screw this, I’m going back to the house.” After all it’s warm there and the coffee is fresh. There’s also damned little I can do at the office that I can’t do from the much nicer office I have at home. It seems that my tolerance for risking my neck – and the body work on my nice shiny Jeep – just for the joy of sitting eight hours in a cubicle is decreasing as the years go by.

Regardless of where I was sitting, the calls got made, the email went out, and this little cog in the great machine did his bit… but I got to do it it worn out jeans and fuzzy slippers. Is it wrong that a big part of me hopes things gent frozen over more often?

Lessons on a snowy day…

Yesterday wasn’t the first snowy day I’ve had here on the homestead. Compared to last winter’s big storm, this one hardly rated a blip, except for the part where the last half of the storm turned to ice. It’s pretty to look at, makes for some interesting watching the dogs try to find traction, and cuts down trees and utility poles like nobody’s business. It’s that last bit that served to set the stage for the most important of the day’s lessons.

I’ve always known my AT&T wireless signal at home was spotty at best. Since I don’t make all that often, this fact was largely hidden by my home Wi-Fi picking up the slack for data purposes. It’s a system that works well enough under normal operating conditions. With Comcast having gone MIA due to any number of local lines being down, operating conditions yesterday were less than ideal. By “less than,” I mean that my fancy new iPhone was utterly and completely useless as a means of communicating for almost the entire duration of the cable outage.

Also learned yesterday was the fact that every penny I spent installing and maintaining my generator was money well spent. Twenty seconds after the lines came down, it roared to life and kept the furnace blower blowing, the well and sump pumps pumping, the dryer drying, and the lights lit. I cooked a normal dinner and settled in to watch The Hunt for Red October and then Master and Commander… while occasionally seeing candles dot the windows of the house across the street. It kept right on chugging through 18 hours without a moment’s complaint. With that I am well satisfied.

Aside from a few other minor details, yesterday’s experience was one up and one down. Over the next few weeks, I know I need to beef up my communications capability. That’s good info to have before I find myself in a position of really needing it. Once the ice melts off and I get a decent day, I also owe the generator an oil change and a pat on the proverbial head.

Attention citizens…

Attention Citizens of Maryland,

We live slightly to the south of the 39°43′ N parallel marked by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1767. Due to our geographic position in the northern hemisphere, we can, from time to time, expect that frozen precipitation will fall out of the sky and in accordance with the basic laws of physics, come to rest upon the ground. When it occurs in quantity, this natural phenomenon is colloquially know as a “snow storm.” Like its warmer, wetter cousin the “rain storm,” this is a perfectly natural event and tends to occur regularly during the months of December, January, February, and even March.

These storms, particularly the ones that take place late in the season tend largely to be quick hitters – lasting for a day or two at most before melting off because the ambient air temperature is well above freezing. Now I’m not a fancy, big city weather forecaster, but it strikes me that calling for wall-to-wall news coverage of a rainy day seems silly. I’m not sure why doing the same thing for snow is really any different… and yet, somehow, it is obviously considered a completely different animal.

So, my fellow citizens, here’s the thing: If you’re panicking right now, running to the supermarket to stock up on six metric tons of toilet paper, or driving across the state for a snow blower, you’re a moron. Every time there’s snow in the offing, the news gins up video of people lined up buying shovels, ice scrapers, and salt from their local big box store. In my mind, that only begs the question: Who are all these people who up until now have had no need for a shovel or a scraper? I’ve had the same “snow preparedness kit” since I moved into my first “grown up” apartment. Same shovel. Same scraper. No salt (because it’s mostly just a pain in the ass that ends up with more in the house than on the driveway). Is it really possible that so many people have never before had the need for a snow shovel or the means of clearing ice off their windshields. I’m just saying. It’s not like these are items that are consumed in use or their technology is getting better every year, so the one you bought for the last storm will work just fine for this one.

Maybe I’ve missed the point. I suppose if one shovel is good, having three or four must be better. And certainly every vehicle on the road needs half a dozen ice scrapers. I guess I’ve just never caught the bug for panic buying. You’ll eventually use all 300 rolls of Charmin, but running out and picking them up because it’s going to snow is an activity that’s simply lost on me. Still, we’re a mostly free people, so go forth and hoard if that’s what you think needs done in the face of nature’s “wrath.” I’ll be here with my feet up judging you and mocking your all too predictable asshattery.

Kind regards,

Jeff